By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The Oklahoma City Thunder, with several new faces on the roster, will get a little extra practice time early in the season spending much of the first full month of the season at home. 10 games are scheduled at The Peake in November, but when the schedule rolls into 2017 the team will have only three games at home in January.
Most of you already know some of the really big dates, a couple were leaked early, with Kevin Durant making his first return visit to OKC on February 11th and then back again on March 20th. Both games will be nationally televised. ABC has the February game and TNT the one in March.
The Thunder will have a Christmas Day game for the seventh straight season, this time hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s the T-Wolves first ever appearance on Christmas. The game will tip at 7pm so you’ll have time to open presents, share a meal and come on down to the arena. ESPN has the game that night.
New Year’s Eve in downtown Oklahoma City will once again include a Thunder home game, just like every season past. This season, the last night of 2016 will feature a marquee matchup with the Thunder hosting Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the LA Clippers.
The season opener is on the road at Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 26th and the home opener is two nights later on Friday the 28th against Phoenix. The season ends at home against Denver on Wednesday, April 12th.
10 of the Thunder’s 17 November games are at home including a stretch of five straight between the 5th and 13th. The Thunder fly to Detroit for a game on the 14th but are then right back home for three more.
In January the schedule flips with just three games at home, Denver on the 7th, Memphis on the 11th and Dallas on the 26th. OKC will be out on the road for a dozen games including the longest road trip of the season, six games, from the 13th at Minnesota to the 25th at New Orleans. Games out west against the Kings, Clippers, Warriors and Jazz fill out the rest of the trip.
The Thunder also have five 3-game road trips, six 2-gamers and eight trips away for just a single game.
The longest home stand is that 5-gamer in November, there’s also a 4-game home stand in February and five featuring three games.
Despite Durant’s departure the Thunder remain popular with the major TV networks. OKC has 30 national TV appearances on the schedule (sixth most) with 10 games on ESPN, nine on NBA-TV, eight scheduled for TNT and three on ABC.
In a major departure from seasons past the Thunder have eight Saturday home games. Most seasons OKC has one or two and sometimes none at all. This season even includes a couple of Saturday home games (November 5th and 26th) during the college football regular season but neither conflicts with OU or OSU home games. The Cowboys play at Kansas State on the 5th and are off on the 26th. OU is off on both the 5th and the 26th.
In addition to Durant’s visits with the Warriors former Thunder players Serge Ibaka, James Harden and Reggie Jackson all return to OKC in November and so does former coach Scott Brooks. Ibaka and the Magic will be at The Peake on November 13th, Harden and the Rockets on the 16th, Jackson and Pistons on the 26th and Brooks and the Wizards on the 30th. Houston also visits OKC on December 9th and in addition to the Clippers December 31st game at The Peake, Griffin and Paul will be back in OKC on November 11th too.
LeBron James brings his Cleveland Cavaliers in for their annual visit on February 9th. The Spurs will be in town on March 9th and March 31st. The Lakers are here on October 30th and February 24th. The Knicks come in on February 15th, the Celtics visit on December 11th.
The Thunder end the season by playing seven of their last 11 games on the road, including four of their last five.
You can see the full schedule on the team’s website (thunder.nba.com) and tickets for all home games go on sale on Saturday, September 24th.