Putting on a Blue and White Show in Moore
MOORE – Fans were decked out in Thunder blue and the building was rocking. Even though it wasn’t in Chesapeake Energy Arena, those in attendance at Westmoore High School on Sunday afternoon helped create a true Thunder game experience during the team’s annual Blue and White Scrimmage.
The annual event is an opportunity for the Thunder to showcase the new iteration of its team for the first time to local residents. With the recent tragic tornadoes that hit Moore and the Oklahoma City area, it was only fitting that the organization decided to make Moore residents feel special by treating them to the scrimmage. In return, the fans, families, teachers and first responders in attendance made the Thunder feel right at home.
“It’s a great feeling to be back here, to make them smile and enjoy the time with them,” forward Serge Ibaka said with a big smile. “In Oklahoma, we have some of the best fans in the NBA, so for me it’s no surprise.”
This is still training camp, so while the Thunder enjoyed interacting and spending time with the fans, this was also still business for the squad on the court. Going through their normal warm-up routine, the Thunder immediately got into some practice drills starting with 5-on-0 offensive execution, the always enjoyable three-on-two-on-one fast break drill and then a unique “100 pass” drill, where the offense has to execute and continually move until it has competed 100 consecutive passes against the defense. It was a light-hearted event, but for the Thunder, this was also a real opportunity for the team to keep improving and work on different aspects of its game.
“Our coach every day in practice tells us to try to help each other and make each other get better,” Ibaka said. “That’s why when you see us, every time we play on the court, we try to play hard to help each other and to get better.”
“We compete every day,” rookie guard Andre Roberson said. “That’s how we get better. If we compete hard in practice, it makes the game that much easier. We’re always striving to get better. That’s what we’re willing to do and we’re trying to help bring some wins and brighter things ahead in the future.”
Before the actual scrimmage began, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti and point guard Russell Westbrook addressed the crowd. In addition, the team announced that through the Thunder Cares foundation, it will be building outdoor basketball courts at the sites of the three Moore schools hit by the tornado – Plaza Towers Elementary, Briarwood Elementary and Highland East Junior High School.
On the floor, the teams were separated into two seven-man teams with Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Hasheem Thabeet, Ryan Gomes and Rodney McGruder playing for the White squad and Nick Collison, Derek Fisher, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Diante Garrett playing for the Blue team. Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins were both with the White squad, but sat with injuries.
Over three 10-minute quarters, the Thunder battled with one another up and down the floor, with the white squad ultimately coming out on top, 54-46. It was a back-and-forth affair, and with the coaching staff in their ears, Thunder players got yet another chance to iron out some wrinkles on the court. After two preseason games in Europe, the Thunder has gotten some full speed action, but the chance to go against one another in a scrimmage setting in front of an audience was yet another valuable opportunity to get comfortable with one another in an intense 5-on-5 format.
“They throw a lot of stuff at us, and out here you get better day-by-day,” Roberson explained. “If you run it consistently, it comes by instinct in the game.”
As the Thunder inches closer and closer to the regular season, today’s scrimmage provides an excellent warm up for Tuesday’s first home preseason game of the season against the Denver Nuggets. A few thousand more Thunder fans will be in attendance at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Tuesday, but the squad was beyond thrilled and honored to be able to spend time in Moore on Sunday as a part of the organization’s attempt to continue supporting the rebuilding of property and lives in the area.
“It’s a great community,” Roberson said. “There are a lot of fans out here and a lot of support. It’s good, they give to us and we give back. It’s a two-way street.”