By Michael Kinney
The Oklahoma City Thunder like to throw a little spice into their preseasons games. In 2016, the franchise took off for Spain for a week as they played two of the top teams in the country.
This year the Thunder will be staying home, but that doesn’t mean the preseason will be any less interesting.
Oklahoma City announced Monday they will be part of a three game format that pits NBA teams against the National Basketball League (NBL). The National Basketball League is based in Australia and is one of the of the top basketball leagues in the world.
“This is a huge moment for Australian basketball,” NBL Executive Chairman and Owner Larry Kestelman said. “For the NBL to be able to play some of the biggest teams in the world shows how far our league has come. I want to thank the NBA for this exciting opportunity to showcase the NBL on the world stage. For our teams to be chosen to come and play in the NBA preseason is a great endorsement of the NBL and Australian basketball.”
The first game will feature the Sydney Kings taking on the Utah Jazz Oct. 2. The final contest is the Brisbane Bullets at the Phoenix Suns Oct. 13.
The Thunder will host Melborne United Oct. 8 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. They kick off the preseason Oct. 4 in Tulsa vs. the Houston Rockets.
“We are excited to welcome Melbourne United to Oklahoma City,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said. “This event marks our third opportunity to host an international team in Chesapeake Energy Arena, and we are proud to help continue the advancement of the game through these competitions.”
Melborne finished the 2016-17 season with a 13-15 record.
These NBA preseason games will take place right as the NBL is starting its regular season. But league officials believed the opportunity to make it happen was too big of a benefit to pass up.
“We currently have a number of Australians playing in the NBA, strong national teams in the Boomers and Opals, record participation levels and a flourishing national competition,” Kestelman said. “This opportunity will only build more excitement ahead of the NBL season starting on Oct. 5.”
This will be the first time any NBL team has ever traveled to the United States to face teams from the NBA. However, the Thunder will be the second team from Oklahoma to take on an NBL squad this year.
The University of Oklahoma Men’s Basketball team is traveling to Australia for a 11-day trip that includes three exhibition basketball games. Two of those are against the NBL’s Sydney Sharks (Aug. 10) and the Cairns Taipans (Aug. 13).
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com