Preview 1 of 82: Knicks @ Thunder
Radio: (98.1 FM OKC, 97.1 FM Tulsa)
It was 177 days ago that Oklahoma City was eliminated by the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. Russell Westbrook averaged 37.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.8 assists in the five game series, but the outmatched Thunder squad was squashed any time the eventual MVP went to the bench. The season in its entirety was a relative success — at least in terms of what most expected. Regardless, it was clear that GM Sam Presti had his work cut out for him if fortunes were to change in the Sooner State.
Well — mission accomplished.
The Thunder enters tonight’s season opener with not only a revamped roster, but also renewed optimism in the daunting quest to challenge Kevin Durant and his Golden State Warriors. In adding Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to the fold — not to mention Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton — Oklahoma City should have a high octane offense, one of the league’s elite defenses, and an ability to go small that wasn’t possible a season ago. Growing pains are expected along the way, but the pieces needed to make things interesting are all in place. It’s up to Billy Donovan & Co. to make it all work.
Opening night brings the New York Knicks to Chesapeake Energy Arena, pitting Melo against his former team. He was traded to OKC on September 23 in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a second round draft pick after seven seasons with the Knicks. How he fares against his old squad, along with Kanter’s triumphant return, will be of much discussion. Hyperbolic reactions to how the “OK3” looks in regular season action will be immense either way it goes, but it feels great to have basketball season officially begin.
Let’s get into some notes.
- Raymond Felton: ACTIVE — Wrist
- Patrick Patterson: ACTIVE — Knee
What To Watch ForMelo vs New York
. Obviously this game is about far more than Carmelo Anthony versus the Knicks, but how he handles the emotions of the contest will be interesting to watch. How the Thunder gels offensively is of the utmost importance, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Melo go iso-hero early and often off adrenaline alone. Slowing things down, getting into the offense and treating it like any other game would make most Thunder fans really happy. His ability to allow Westbrook to set the early tone is worth keeping an eye on.The ‘Stache Bros
. We’ve seen them act as best friends for the last few seasons, but it will be really interesting to see how things go the first time Steven Adams and Enes Kanter match-up against one another. These two know each other’s tendencies, moves and every mannerism. Will start friendly and potentially evolve into something quite serious, as anyone with a sibling/best friend can attest.Patrick Patterson
: With Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson both active for the season opener, the Thunder bench will get a nice boost in the ability to play at full strength. Even still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Patterson play on a minutes restriction, as he missed training camp and the entire preseason after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. At his best, Patterson will buoy the second unit with his ability to stretch the floor and defend at a high level. Even if he’s restricted from a minutes standpoint, keep an eye on the way Billy D. utilizes the big man, what rotations he runs with, and if he spends any time at center. He’s a big piece of this Thunder team, and can do a lot of things well.
- Oklahoma City is 8-1 all-time in home openers, with the only loss coming against the Milwaukee Bucks in the inaugural season. The Thunder’s record in season opener’s is 6-3.
- OKC won both match-ups with New York last season, and carries a three-game winning streak against the Knicks into tonight. The Thunder is 12-5 against New York since relocation.
- Every fan in attendance will receive one of these shirts celebrating the Thunder’s 405th seas…. The Thunder’s 10th season in existence.
- Enes Kanter discusses returning to OKC. Via Brett Dawson.
- Russell Westbrook is far less emotional about Kanter’s return. Via Royce Young.
- We put together a quick hype video for the occasion. Enjoy.