Christmas Night Game Highlights Early Release of National TV Games for Thunder

The Thunder’s 27-game turnaround and the excitement for what lies ahead sure grabbed the attention of the national networks.

NBA TV gave a sneak peek of the 2010-11 regular season schedule on Tuesday evening with four of the Thunder's games being announced. The Thunder will be front and center on national television for the season’s opening week as well as a pair of holidays. Except for games broadcast on TNT or ABC, all Thunder regular-season games will be shown locally and regionally exclusively on FOX Sports Oklahoma (FSO).

ESPN and FSO will broadcast the Thunder’s regular-season opener against the Chicago Bulls at the Ford Center on Oct. 27. NBA TV and FSO will carry the Thunder's Halloween night home game vs. the Utah Jazz on Sunday, Oct. 31 while TNT is scheduled to pick up the Thunder's Martin Luther King Day game at the L.A. Lakers on Monday, Jan. 17. The biggest honor of them all will be on Christmas night, Saturday, Dec 25, when the Thunder hosts the Denver Nuggets in a holiday nightcap on ESPN and FSO.

Here’s a closer look at the nationally televised games. But keep in mind that this could be just the start. The Thunder could find itself playing before more national audiences when the league releases the rest of the schedule on Tuesday, Aug. 10.

Chicago Bulls at Thunder, Wednesday, Oct. 27 7:00 p.m. CDT (ESPN and FSO)
No better way to kick off the season; at home before a few million viewers. The last time the Thunder played at the Ford Center in Game 6 of the NBA Playoffs, the place was rocking. One has to wonder whether the energy and anticipation will be at a similar level. One thing for certain will be the quality talent on the floor that night.

This will be Thunder fans’ first regular-season look at some fresh faces, including rookie Cole Aldrich, guards Daequan Cook and Royal Ivey and forward Morris Peterson

This will also be the debut for a few Bulls’ newcomers in free-agent forward Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Kurt Thomas and rookie head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Offseason workout pals and USA Basketball teammates Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose are also widely regarded as two of the league’s rising point guards.

The Thunder and Bulls split their two meetings last season with each team winning on the road.

Utah Jazz at Thunder, Sunday, Oct 31 6:00 p.m. CDT (NBA TV and FSO)

Denver Nuggets at Thunder, Saturday, Dec. 25 7:00 p.m. CDT (ESPN and FSO)
The Christmas Day games are one of the league’s signature platforms, so consider this quite the privilege for the Thunder, which will celebrate Christmas night at the Ford Center for the first time since relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008.

“Clearly it’s an indication that the Thunder brand is evolving,” Thunder Senior Vice President Brian Byrnes said. “I think it’s a sign that there is a national appetite for the Thunder. I think it’s a vote of confidence for what we established for our community and our fans. It's a statement that Oklahoma City continues to establish itself as a major-league city. When the Oklahoma City Thunder is able to host an NBA signature game on Christmas night , it's a terrific boost for everything we’re all a part of in this community.”

With a 7:00 p.m. CDT start, this matchup falls in the early evening slot, meaning it will be the fourth of five Christmas games in the NBA. Christmas aside, this will also be a division game for the Thunder, which went 1-3 against Denver last season.

Thunder at L.A. Lakers, Monday, Jan. 17 8:30 p.m. CDT (TNT)
This will be the Thunder’s third straight game on Martin Luther King Day and this time it will get a national TV slot.

This also marks the Thunder’s first game against the two-time defending champion Lakers since losing to them in Game 6 at the Ford Center.

All the usual suspects should be on the floor for both teams. Two Lakers' newcomers include forward Matt Barnes and guard Steve Blake, both free-agent signings. The Thunder will be looking for its first win at the Staples Center since Jan. 27, 2007.

So there we have it: four Thunder games on some of the biggest nights of the regular season. These nationally televised games demonstrate there is a tremendous appetite for the Thunder, Byrnes said.

“We see that reflected in our ticket sales, TV ratings and sponsors who are looking to be involved in our business,” Byrnes said. “But you can also see it in NBA TV Fan Night votes and other public forums. Our brand, our team's style of play and the characteristics of our players resonate with fans across the country. My guess is that is a significant reason why the league invited the Thunder to play on these signature dates.”

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