That is the annual visit of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder to Tulsa for their annual exhibition game, this year against the Dallas Mavericks. Tipoff is set for 7pm on Tuesday. The game with the Mavericks will be the seventh in a row for the Thunder, who have included Tulsa on their exhibition schedule every year that the BOK Center has been open.
The Thunder have hosted Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota and in 2009 they hosted their 2012 NBA finals opponent Miami. The annual game is always well attended and it gives the Tulsa market a chance to see Thunder stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook play without going down to the City.
In 2008, the BOK Center and the city of Tulsa had the honor of hosting the very first appearance of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the state of Oklahoma.
This season the team is bringing the “Thunder Experience” to Tulsa’s Guthrie Green prior to the game. Billed as “Thunder Pregame in the Park” it will feature the Thunder Girls dance team and the Storm Chasers as well as food trucks and a DJ. The event kicks off at 4pm and is free and open to the public.
Last season the Thunder came to the BOK Center minus Kevin Durant, who had just suffered the injury that would eventually eliminate him from the 2014-15 NBA season. Durant played in only 26 games last season before calling the season in to remedy what was termed a “jones fracture” in his right foot.
With Durant on the sidelines for most of the 2015-16 season Russell Westbrook emerged as a leader on the Oklahoma City Thunder squad, despite missing a number of games himself after suffering injuries to his right hand and his face. Westbrook came back from surgery to his face swinging, and he recorded several triple doubles on his way to Western Conference Player of the Month honors from February-April.
He would also gain the 2014-2015 NBA scoring title. However despite the effort, the Thunder would miss out on the playoffs due to a tiebreaker with the New Orleans Pelicans, and Westbrook would fall short of the MVP award, finishing fourth in voting. They would finish with a 45-37 record, missing the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2008-09.
This year KD and Westbrook are full strength and ready and raring to go. The team is currently 2-0 in their exhibition schedule that saw them defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-99 and Fenerbahce Istanbul (Turkey) 111-81.
New this season in the Thunder family is Billy Donovan, who replaced Scott Brooks as head coach when he was fired soon after the end of the 2014-15 NBA season. Donovan, who has college coaching experience at the University of Florida, where he led the Gators to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2007.
He was named to be the head coach of the Orlando Magic after winning his first NCAA title, but he had second thoughts and returned to the Gators, so for all intents and purposes this is Donovan’s first crack at coaching in the NBA.
Tickets for Tuesday night’s game are on sale now through the Thunder website at thunder.nba.com or at the BOK Center box office.
Photos by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today.