By Randy Renner
The Thunder will have plenty of national TV appearances this coming season with 24 games scheduled to be on either ABC, ESPN or TNT and nine more set for national distribution on NBA-TV.
The 24 games on the NBA's big three TV partners is tied for second-most in the league. The LA Clippers will also be on 24 times. The Cavaliers and Warriors are scheduled for 25 appearances on ABC, ESPN or TNT.
The NBA released the 2015-16 schedule late yesterday afternoon and some of the key dates and games for the Thunder include opening the season at home against San Antonio on Wednesday, October 28th on ESPN and closing out the regular season also with the Spurs but in San Antonio on Tuesday, April 12th in a game set for TNT.
ESPN is already billing that opening game against the Spurs as "The Return," when superstar Kevin Durant is expected to be back on the floor to play in his first regular season game since mid-February.
The end of the regular season will offer up one of the more challenging stretches with the Thunder on the road in five of their last six games and seven of their last nine. The only two home games during that part of the schedule are against the LA Clippers on March 31st and the LA Lakers on April 11th.
In November the Thunder have a stretch of playing seven of nine games at home.
The Thunder will be featured in ABC's first NBA telecast of the season at 1:30 on Christmas Day when they host the Chicago Bulls. The Thunder will also be home again on New Year's Eve hosting the Phoenix Suns.
OKC will have one four-game homestand, which comes that Christmas through New Year's week. In addition to the Bulls and Suns the Thunder will host Denver on December 27th and Milwaukee on December 29th.
The Thunder's longest road trip is also four games but they'll have three of those.
Former Thunder sixth man James Harden and the Houston Rockets will be in OKC on January 29th and March 22nd, former OU star Blake Griffin and his LA Clippers will be in town on March 9th and March 31st and former Thunder backup point guard Reggie Jackson brings his Detroit Pistons into The Peake on November 27th.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan will make his first trip back to Florida as an NBA coach very early in the season, the second game, when the Thunder play at Orlando on October 30th.
The NBA Champion Golden State Warriors visit OKC just once, on February 27th but OKC will have to play in Oracle Arena twice so that imbalance could have an impact on tie-breakers.
LeBron James and the Cavs will be in town on February 21st.
Overall the Thunder will play 16 sets of back-to-back games, down from 18 last season, but four of those back-to-backs come the first month of the season.
One of the more interesting notes about the schedule is something no one can remember in previous years, a Saturday afternoon home game not dictated by playoffs or national TV. The Thunder will host the Lakers on Saturday, December 19th, at 4pm. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Oklahoma and that tip time is sure to please merchants in Bricktown with fans getting out of game right at dinner time.
Individual tickets for all Thunder home games will go on sale on September 29th via the Thunder website.