Two Days Until Thunder Tipoff

Friday, December 23rd 2011, 1:20 pm
By: News 9

Santa Claus is coming to town, and many basketball fans will gladly unwrap the 2011 Thunder season with a Christmas Day matchup against Orlando.

As the final two days before the season wind away, the Thunder is finalizing preseason practices and looking forward to the holiday start.

The team returned to practice Thursday and Friday after a day off on Wednesday.

Thursday's time in the gym was just what head coach Scott Brooks promised—the toughest day of practice yet.

"We had a tough practice today, guys were really getting at each other so I think we're ready," said OKC forward Kendrick Perkins. "We're just going to continue to work, continue to grind and stay together."

During that practice, the Thunder focused on defense. Guarding the post, getting out to shooters and the transition game were all staples of the workout, some key fundamentals OKC needs to develop early and continue to improve on throughout the season.

"It's some of the things you will see the first night, just getting our defensive schemes down and really having them become second nature and reacting quickly," said Coach Brooks.

The team practiced again Friday and knows that playing on Christmas Day is a treat that also comes with high expectations.

"When you're one of the team's that gets picked to play on Christmas, I think you should take it as being an honor," said Perkins. "I think it shows that you're one of the elite teams. So I think it's an honor and I've always liked playing on Christmas Day."

The Thunder returns all 10 players from its two-deep rotation. One of the most noticeable differences is in Kendrick Perkins who is healthy after injuring both knees and dropped more than 30 pounds during the offseason.

Oklahoma City enters the season with lofty expectations, and even some player accolade predictions as ESPN's NBA Preview predicts Kevin Durant as the league's MVP, James Harden as the Sixth Man of the Year and Scott Brooks tied for Coach of the Year.

Oh and if you're looking for an early KD sighting, he will be out and about around Oklahoma City on Friday.

"OKC: I'm taking my van out tomorrow to spread the #basketballneverstops movement around OKC. Look out for my tweets tomorrow." said Durant on his personal Twitter page.

For fans attending the game or those that want to take part in the opening day festivities, Reno Avenue outside the arena will be transformed into a winter wonderland filled with falling snow, lit trees and park benches.

Fans can visit Santa and the Thunder Girls and have fun with the Storm Chasers and Thunder Drummers starting at 5 p.m. and doors to the game open at 5:30 p.m.

OKC will tip off against Orlando at 7 p.m. Dec. 25. The game will be televised on Fox Sports in Oklahoma as well as on ESPN.