Thunder Excited for Bixby Blue and White Scrimmage
When the Thunder hits the floor each night, televisions all across the state are tuned into the games, not just in Oklahoma City.
On Thursday and Friday, the Thunder will reward some of their loyal fans in the Tulsa area by making an exciting trip up to Bixby to play the annual Blue and White Scrimmage on Thursday and a preseason game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. The Blue and White Scrimmage will be held at the Spirit Bank EventCenter in Bixby, which is the new home of the Thunder's Tulsa affiliate, the 66ers. The game against the Suns will be at the BOK Center in Tulsa. Both events will be chances for the team to connect with some of its fans who don’t normally get to see the Thunder up close and personally. On Wednesday after practice, both Head Coach Scott Brooks and guard Russell Westbrook were enthusiastic about the upcoming trip.
“It’s definitely fun, it’s the first time I think we’ve done (the scrimmage) in Tulsa,” Westbrook said. “So it’s definitely a little different. We get the opportunity to get to see some of the fans out in Tulsa. It’s a great opportunity for that and it should be fun.”
This two day event will also feature community events and will be a great way for the Thunder to connect with its loyal fans in the northeastern part of the state. While the Blue and White scrimmage will be fun, it is mostly a continuation of the Thunder’s development during training camp. A full-on, serious scrimmage between players competing against one another is a perfect way to improve as a group.
“It’s a very intimate feel with the fans right there and the players are able to talk to them and have fun with the crowd,” Brooks said. “And they take it serious. Our guys love to compete… The bottom line is they’re going to get something out of it. They’re going to compete, they’re going to do the things that we’ve done on both ends of the floor.”
A serious Westbrook on Wednesday agreed with his head coach, saying that despite the Thunder’s 34 assist effort in a 120-98 win against the Charlotte Bobcats in the team’s preseason home opener, the Thunder still has work to do. Practicing each day at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center certainly aids in that process, but a true, full-length scrimmage will also be an interesting setting to make strides forward.
“We have to get better,” Westbrook said. “We can’t just mess around with it. It’s not like an All-Star game. Scrimamges are real practices, there are just people in the stands.”
Organizationally, Brooks, Westbrook and the Thunder players and staff recognize the importance of not only the following two weeks before the regular season starts, but the impending four-day stretch. With the Blue-and-White Scrimmage and two preseason games from Thursday through Sunday, there will be a major evaluation and assessment process as the coaching staff helps its players get better.
The setting of this week’s action will also be meaningful to the team. Not only has the Oklahoma City community opened its arms completely to the team since it arrived five years ago, but the entire state has embraced the Thunder. From Guymon to Tulsa to McAlester to Ardmore and back again, the Thunder has received support from the entire Oklahoma on a consistent basis.
“We represent the whole state,” Brooks said. “There are fans throughout the state that follow us, support us, watch us on television. Now they’re going to get a chance to see us in Tulsa with the scrimmage and the exhibition game up there… We’ve done it every year to hit different parts of the state and had the high school programs involved. It’s always important to get the younger players involved. This is a great game, this is a great sports state.”
Brooks referenced the fans’ encouragement of Westbrook after a tough game last season, the standing ovation the team received after the 2010 Playoffs loss and the incredible energy it displayed during last season’s Playoff run. All of those moments, and the interactions the team has at community appearances and during their daily lives in the entire state inspires the coaches and players to work that much harder and play to the best of its abilities.
“We all know we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in if it wasn’t for the fan base that we have,” Brooks said. “The players love it. There are so many examples that they have displayed their feelings for our players… There are so many different moments where we know that we’re in a special place and the fans have been great. I think the players do well by the fans too. They play hard every night. They compete, they try their best every night. It’s not always perfect, but the effort always is.”