Thunder Players Fill Up & Reach Out at the Oklahoma State Fair
White, shin-high socks with small colorized tacos stitched into them were tucked into “Cheeseburger” Nike Air Max sneakers. It was a fitting footwear theme for Patrick Patterson, the newcomer Thunder forward who was experiencing his first-ever Oklahoma State Fair – a sort of mecca of funky food.
After all, it was the right day of the week for his socks, a true “Taco Tuesday”. But as his teammate Andre Roberson made a bee-line for the deep fried oreos upon arrival at the State Fair, Patterson eye was drawn to a different delicacy – the donut burger.
It’s not the healthiest option at the Fair, though there’s not much competition in that department. After an intense voluntary workout at the practice facility, however, Patterson and his teammates Roberson, Jerami Grant and Doug McDermott all deserved a fun cheat meal and afternoon of games out on the west side of town.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) September 19, 2017
The quartet started off camped out at a Thunder shop, dishing out wristbands and pocket schedules, greeting fans with hugs and handshakes as they picked up some new Thunder gear. Next, they had a chance to stroll through the avenue of food. Along the way they posed for photos and connected with families who made the effort to take part in an Oklahoma institution.
“The OKC fair is a tradition here,” Roberson said. “We want to establish the Oklahoma City Thunder as a part of that tradition. Being out here and showing our faces is a part of it.”
“Everyone is friendly, warm, loving, open and kind. I definitely appreciate that,” Patterson chimed.
Corn dog, turkey leg, lemonade and funnel cake stands lined the pathway that took the players through throngs of adoring fans, and deposited them directly in front of some games, which look easy but for some strange reason are always more difficult than they let on.
McDermott was the ringleader – he made the crew stop off at the dart toss, the basketball shot and the softball throw. Everyone came away with a neon stuffed animal, including the kids who tagged along with the players to each station. It was natural and light, a relaxing afternoon for teammates to hang out even in the sweltering September sun.
“The last few months have been a bonding process. It’s definitely good to have everyone back in town right now and us outside of the court and outside of the facility to be around each other in situations like this,” Patterson said.
McDermott, who grew up going to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, said the Oklahoma version brought back fond memories of his childhood. His first chance to go somewhere with his friends without parental supervision, the fun competition of the fair games and enjoying the rides with his buddies. On top of the natural powers of time, events like this one have helped McDermott settle into Oklahoma City over the past seven months since he arrived via trade.
“It finally feels like home for me, which is good,” McDermott said. “I really like it here. The people are awesome. Everybody really cares about the organization and the team. It really fun to be a part of.”
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As Patterson mentioned, Thunder players are back in town going through voluntary workouts at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center. Official practices with coaches involved won’t begin until next week once U.S. Cellular Training Camp begins, but the team has been getting the competitive juices flowing.
“It’s been really competitive. We’ve matched the teams up and played an hour continuously the past few weeks,” McDermott said. “We’re all kind of going through some of the sets Coach Donovan had us run last year to make it more game-like.”
The team is starting to see what it can become, and its strengths and weaknesses. It will get much more of an insight into that starting next week, and once the entire roster is assembled at once. That includes Patrick Patterson, who is still recovering from minor knee surgery. He was walking around just fine at the Fair, but his timetable for full participation and game action is still fluid at this point. Patterson, a veteran of the NBA, knows not to push it too hard, too fast. He’s focused on trying to be ready for when the lights truly come on and the regular season begins.
“I just want to be 100 percent with my knee, my body and everything by the time the jump ball hits,” Patterson said.