Thunder Puts on Great Effort in Blue and White Scrimmage

It was a raucous pep rally atmosphere as the Thunder players and coaching staff got off the bus, but when the Thunder took the court, it was a hard-fought workman-like scrimmage.

On Thursday night the Thunder took the court at the SpiritBank Event Center in Bixby, the new home of the Thunder’s affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers for its annual Blue and White Scrimmage. Before the team even got to the arena, it was greeted by 75 loyal Thunder fans camped out at the highway exit near Bixby, which was just a sneak preview of the impending show of fan support. With local fans and high school cheerleaders paving a path, the Thunder players and coaching staff entered the gym to massive cheers then began its condensed practice as a warm-up to the scrimmage.

500 local high school boys and girls basketball players got an exclusive chance to watch the Thunder practice before the general public entered the building, as the Thunder further strengthens its relationship with the Oklahoma basketball community. Often high school and college coaches check in on Thunder practices at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, but this chance for high school students to witness the hard work, dedication and practice methods of professionals was special.

Between the love they received from the high school basketball players before-hand and the crowd during the scrimmage that followed, Thunder players like Kevin Durant came away thrilled by their experience in Tulsa.

“It was the first time we’ve come to Tulsa to do something like this,” Durant said. “It was good to come out here and play in front of these fans out in Tulsa. It was pretty cool, everybody was enthused and it seemed like they were excited about the season.”

Once the true scrimmage action got going, the scene became very familiar. The teams were split up generally into the regular starters on the White team (Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins) and the typical second unit on the Blue team. (Eric Maynor, James Harden, Daequan Cook, Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich. Reggie Jackson, Hollis Thompson, Daniel Orton and Hasheem Thabeet joined the White team, while Perry Jones, Andy Rautins, Lazar Hayward, DeAndre Liggins and Walker Russell were on the Blue Team. Although it was a back-and-forth first half, the White team pulled away in the second half and won 57-48. Overall, it was a physical, intense game with a high level of communication and energy.

“We didn’t practice today so it was our only work today,” Collison said. “We’re getting closer to regular season games so every day is important for us. We wanted to come out and play well and also the fans came out to see us play, so we didn’t want to mess around. We wanted to play hard and show them a good game.”

Durant led all scorers with 15 points, but it was his passing and the team’s general unselfishness that was most noticeable as guys were trying to find holes to pass through and get teammates involved. Unfortunately for the offenses, the defensive effort by both teams was superb, as players shouted directions to one another to ensure proper positioning, helped from the weak-side and pursued every loose ball. While it was a fun environment and an exciting atmosphere, the Thunder took this scrimmage very seriously.

“We just wanted to get something done,” Durant said. “Coach (Brooks) always says to get better every time we step on the floor, so we have to get something done. Guys are playing together, playing defense and having fun. It was a good day.”

While in the past the Blue and White Scrimmage has been played more locally at places like Putnam City, Yukon and Midwest City, this was a trip outside of the surrounding Oklahoma City area, making it a distinct experience. As the Thunder players and coaching staff continue to travel throughout different parts of the state, they have become more and more aware of just how truly and deeply they are backed by fans not just in Oklahoma City, but in the entire region.

“It’s great,” Collison said. “We get great support in Oklahoma City, but we also get support from around the state and the whole area. It’s big for us. We appreciate the fans from all over the state. It’s a unique opportunity for people to come in and just watch and see the team up close. It’s one of the most fun things, we do it every year and it’s always fun for us.”