To save money on airfare, D.J. White purchased plane tickets in February for nine relatives to watch the Thunder play April 5 in the Ford Center.
In a strange Hollywood-like coincidence, it ended up being White’s NBA debut.
For the second consecutive game, a player making his Thunder debut showed promise in a lackluster home loss, this one a 117-99 embarrassment to the Indiana Pacers.
Sidelined most of his rookie season following jaw surgery, White scored 14 points in his debut.
"Seeing it on film from college, coaching him in the summer league, D.J. brings effort,” said coach Scott Brooks. "It’s not a surprise D.J. had a great offensive game. I love that he came in and competed.”
That couldn’t be said for many of White’s teammates. Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 27 points and never mounted a serious threat.
For most of the sellout crowd, a fifth consecutive home loss was a game to forget. But with his father, Dewayne, and mother, Julia, in town from Tuscaloosa, Ala., in addition to aunts, uncles and cousins, it’s a night White will never forget.
"It was a coincidence,” White said. "It wasn’t planned at all. They were just coming here to see a game. They went to Tulsa to see me play. They were just planning on being here to see a Thunder game.”
Last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year didn’t miss the first shot of his NBA career until midway through the fourth quarter.
"I have no idea what he’s gone through,” Brooks said. "I never had an injury or an issue like he had. For him to stay mentally and physically ready, it’s an incredible story.