Thunder season is just around the corner so grab your gear, prepare to cheer the loudest (because are the loudest fans, ya know?) and get ready for the new season. Here's some things to look forward to as our boys in blue take the court:
1. International flavor.
The 2016-17 Oklahoma Thunder will have six players on the roster born outside the United States, which is the most for the franchise since moving to Oklahoma City. They include Alex Abrines (Spain), Steven Adams (New Zealand), Ersan Iiyasova (Turkey), Enes Kanter (Turkey), Joffrey Lauvergne (France) and Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania).
2. Thunder Alley returns
The Oklahoma City Thunder normally wait until the postseason before they bring out its fan-friendly Thunder Alley. Officials, however, have chosen to hold Thunder Alley outside of Chesapeake Energy Arena before its two home games this month. They include the home opener Oct. 28 against the Phoenix Suns and Oct. 30 against the L.A. Lakers. Thunder Alley will open to fans three hours prior to tip-off and will close when the game begins.
3. Big games ahead
The minute the NBA released its schedule for the 2016-17 season, Oklahoma City Thunder fans got out their red markers and circled Feb. 11. That is the day former Thunder Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors pay Oklahoma City a visit for the first time this season.
After the offseason in which Durant spurned his home team for the past nine year in order to make a so-called super team with the Warriors, Thunder City fans will undoubtedly be ready for his first return to the Chesapeake Energy Arena (100 W Reno Ave.). There are more big games on the Thunder schedule. For the seventh consecutive season, they’ll play on Christmas, when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves. Oklahoma City will also play host to former Sooner Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers on New Year's Eve. For more ticket information, go to Ticketmaster or OKCThunder.com.
4. Unique nickname
Victor Oladipo announced that his nickname is Mr. Feathery. The four-year pro and Indiana native explained that “feathery is a positive lifestyle. It's better than better. It's better than great, but it's not heavenly, it's right under there. You cannot live a feathery lifestyle so I'm the one and the only, Mr. Feather.”
5. Westbrook front and center
With the departure of Durant, Russell Westbrook automatically became the new face of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But when the fiery point guard signed a contract extension in August, he became even more than that to Thunder fans. His contract will keep him in a Thunder uniform for at least the end of the 2017-18 season.
“I love where I live. People ask me all the time, 'Why do you love Oklahoma City?' I say, The people,” Westbrook said. “You guys are the nicest people I've ever been around. I'm not just saying that because I'm here. Just to be able to be around and walk around. Everywhere I walk around, nobody has never said anything to me negatively. Everything is always positive. Always great encouragement. That's what I like to be around. I like to be where I'm loved, where I'm wanted. Obviously this is a place for that.”
6. Basketball genes
Rookie Domantas Sabonis is the son of former basketball Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis. After a stellar 14-year career in the European leagues, Arvydas joined the NBA and played for the Portland Trailblazers in 1995. He played 10 years before retiring in 2005. Domantas said despite his name, he still has a lot to improve and a lot to do.
7. Youth served
Of the 16 players the Thunder have under contract for the 2016-17 season, 10 of them were born during the 1990s. Sabonis is the youngest member of the team at 20 years of age. Nick Collison, who is entering his 14 year in the league, is the oldest at 36. Collison’s first year in the NBA was the final year for Sabonis’ father, Arvydas.
8. World Travelers
The Thunder traveled overseas to Spain for the first time as a franchise. While there, they took on FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the two top franchises teams in the Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto (ACB) League. Three Oklahoma City players have played in the ACB, including Kyle Singler, who won the Copa Del Rey in 2012 with Real Madrid.
9. Game night traffic
Due to construction around Chesapeake Energy Arena, I-40, I-235, E.K. Gaylord, Oklahoma City Boulevard and the Broadway Extension, travel times could be increased greatly to and from games this season. For construction updates and alternate routes on game night, go to the website Ok.gov or @OKDOT on Twitter. The majority of Thunder home games this year will have a tip-off time of 7 p.m.
10. Minor Blues
When the Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t playing at home, there is a good chance basketball fans can still get their appetite filled with the Oklahoma City Blue. The Blue are owned by the Thunder and compete in the NBA Developmental League, which is the minor leagues of the NBA.