- When: Saturday, 05 October 2013 at 8:00 AM CST
- Where: Fenerbahce Ulker Sport Arena, Istanbul, Turkey
The time has finally arrived. After getting spoiled with 2 trips to the Western Conference Finals and 1 trip to the NBA Finals, last season’s second round exit made the offseason seems exponentially longer. But thankfully, the basketball gods listened to one of our prayers and gave us the first preseason game of the season (at 8:00 am CST, to boot).
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be playing Fenerbahce Ulker, one of the premier teams in Turkey. Its kind of cool when you think that Oklahoma City didn’t have a team 6 years ago and now, they are opening up the league’s preseason schedule in Turkey as one of their premier teams. The Thunder have a lot of work to do with Russell Westbrook being out for at least the first month of the season. They have to incorporate a couple new players and have to implement a couple young players into the rotation. Work aside though, I hope they take this experience (on the road, together) and build a ton of chemistry that will last them throughout the season.
Regarding FB Ulker, there’s nothing much I can tell you about the team. Their point guard, Bo McCalebb (pictured above) is not Turkish. He’s from New Orleans. Their starting small forward is Linas Kleiza, who was a pretty good player when he was in the league with the Denver Nuggets and the Toronto Raptors. He was usually used as a spark off the bench and could quickly catch fire from the outside. Ulker has a couple players that have been drafted by NBA teams, but they have yet to play a game in the league. Izzet Turkyilmaz was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft and Bojan Bogdanovic was drafted by the Miami Heat in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft.
Probable Starting Line-Ups
PG – Bo McCalebb
SG – Omer Onan
SF – Linas Kleiza
PF – Emir Preldzic
C – Luka Zoric
Oklahoma City Thunder
PG – Reggie Jackson
SG – Thabo Sefolosha
SF – Kevin Durant
PF – Serge Ibaka
C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Stay healthy – In the wake of Westbrook’s injury, I’m a little gun shy concerning injuries. I want every player to make it out of every game with nary a scratch. In fact, if the game could be played as a free throw shooting contest, I’d be down with that. With that said, the team needs this time to work out their kinks and get prepared for the season.
2. Watching the young guys – I’m excited about finally getting to see the young guys in action with the grizzled vets (yes, Kevin and Serge. You guys are grizzled vets). Finally getting to see Jeremy Lamb take his place as the perimeter oriented 6th man. Seeing how Steven Adams and Daniel Orton look as the centers of the future. Seeing what Perry Jones III has added to his game and whether he’ll realize all his talent this season. And seeing how Andre Roberson melds into the honorary ‘hustle/defensive guy off the bench’ role. Honestly, I think I’m more giddy about the potential of the young guys than I am about seeing the vets.
3. Daniel Orton vs. Hasheem Thabeet – Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams are already guaranteed to be on the roster. There is a possibility that Orton and Thabeet may be battling for the 3rd center spot on the team. Daniel Orton’s contract is not guaranteed and Thabeet has a $500,0000 buyout option. The team will definitely keep one of the them, but having four centers on the team can be overdoing it a bit. Orton showed in Summer League some of the potential that had scouts raving about him coming out of high school and college. He appeared to finally have gotten over the knee injuries that derailed the first 2 seasons of his career. Thabeet showed his value last season as a back up big man. He did his job and shed some of the bust label that has followed him since his entrance into the league.
Bonus: For those of you worried about the security of the team: Don’t worry. The guy in the Rumble uniform is actually this guy: