The Oklahoma City Thunder are set to get their season started on Festivus against the Houston Rockets. The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. CST, and be found on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It is extremely likely that James Harden will be out for the season opener after the NBA launched an investigation into his acts off the floor, as will “several other” Rockets including John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
The OKC Thunder will be without Ty Jerome, the lone player remaining from the Chris Paul trade, as the second-year guard deals with a left ankle sprain. The Thunder will also miss Rookie guard Theo Maledon who is out for personal matters, an excused absence from the team. It does not seem likely that Darius Miller will make his Thunder debut either, as Mark Daigneault told those of us in the media that he is still in his “return to play” program as he recovers from his Achilles injury.
Random note of the game: The Thunder are 4-3 on Festivus.
This first game should be the ultimate game for Thunder fans! No matter what side of the tanking fence you are on, tonight will be a great night for you! Not only is it the return of Thunder basketball, but this is a “Can’t lose” game in terms of fan morale.
If the Thunder drop their season opener, where they were a 6.5-point underdog prior to the contact tracing news, the tanking crowd will be overjoyed as the team starts their crusade for Cade. If OKC is able to beat, a John Wall-DeMarcus Cousins-James Harden-less Rockets team, they still improve one of the Thunder draft picks in this loaded 2021 NBA Draft Class!
If OKC still finds a way to lose to the Rockets, down “several players” Thunder fans need to worry not about the team finishing with a 14% chance of landing that top pick (Meaning, the Thunder will finish bottom three in the league and tie for the best odds at the top pick).
However, in a normal game when you aren’t playing against a team that you control their 2021 NBA Draft future, this is exactly why tanking will be tough for this bunch. Not only did Sam Presti still construct a competent team that will rarely get blown out, but you never know which games star players will miss.
While contact tracing could happen to anyone and allow a team like OKC to “steal” a win they shouldn’t, you also have to factor in the load managing rule that has been altered. Teams are now allowed to load manage players on non-national TV games. The Thunder have zero National TV games in the first half of the season.
In the year of our lord 2020, it will be as hard to tank, as it is to win a Championship. So let this Thunder team prove to you who they really are.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
- You absolutely have to watch for this game being the first NBA game to be postponed in this upside-down 2020-21 season. The last time OKC tried to play a basketball game outside of the Disney World Bubble they were the first game postponed and kicked off the world we know today, as it took a major sporting event being missed for us to take the virus seriously.
- If this game gets played, SGA will be the lead guard from start to finish in a meaningful NBA game.
- How Much does Aleksej Pokusevski play in this game and where is he in the initial rotation?
- With Theo Maledon out, does George Hill still get the start? Or would Mark Daigneault prefer to have the veteran lead the bench unit?
For a more in-depth look at what to watch for and more reasons to watch this game, the bet of the game, and keys to the game, check out the Locked on Thunder podcast wherever you get your podcasts!
Prediction: The Thunder win this one and start out 1-0, with a better record than the Warriors and Lakers.