Thunder Thrilled for Preseason Home Opener
The seats fill up early, the murmur of excitement gradually builds and it crescendos when the ball is tipped. There’s nothing like basketball at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Tonight, after a summer of hard work and nearly three weeks of training camp including a week-long trip to Europe, the Thunder gets back on the floor in front of its home fans. Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team’s home opener is slated to start tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT against the Denver Nuggets, and the team couldn’t be more thrilled to be in the friendly confines that have propelled the team to victory so many times over the past five seasons.
“It’s always better to be in a real atmosphere, playing,” guard Reggie Jackson said. “We’re trying to get the flow, get tempo going and get some things defensively to shore up some things.”
“I’ve been waiting for this for a while,” forward Kevin Durant echoed. “Everybody that works in the arena, I missed them throughout the summer and this preseason. I’m glad we’re getting back to our home. I know the fans will come out and support us. I’m looking forward to it.”
After winning its first two warm-up games against Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul and the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, the Thunder has a baseline reading of where its team is and where it wants to be. Kevin Durant said at this morning’s shoot-around that he is happy with the team’s current trajectory, and it’s clear that the work that has been put in thus far has been up to Thunder standards.
Facing a Denver team who is 2-1 thus far in the preseason and a perennial Western Conference contender will be a tough task, regardless of changes to the roster and coaching staff. Nuggets new head coach Brian Shaw is at the helm of a team that features Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee, who will provide a good opening preseason challenge for players like Jackson, Durant and Serge Ibaka.
During training camp, however, the Thunder’s mindset is solely locked on its own strategy, style of play and principles. As a result, tonight will be an evaluation opportunity for the Thunder’s coaching staff and players to gather positives and negatives as the regular season approaches.
“We’re really focusing on ourselves in the month of October and then dial into our opponents once the season starts,” Brooks said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to transfer all the work that we’ve done.”
“We respect them, but it’s all about us and what we have to do,” Durant explained. “Our game plan is to just come out on the defensive end and stick to our scheme. On offense, it’s to move the ball. We’re just trying to fine-tune some things to get ready for the regular season.”