Updated 10/8/2008 — Game Day!
Ordinarily, Doug Dawg would not be fawning over a pre-season game … but the one scheduled for Wednesday, October 8 at 8:00 p.m. (formerly 7:00 p.m.) is different — it is the FIRST EVER game played by the Oklahoma City Thunder — and it should therefore be singled out for attention — when you get really old and your grandchild asks you, “Hey, Granddad/mom, what was the Thunder’s 1st ever game?” you’ll want to be able to answer the question, right? Right.
The game isn’t scheduled for the Ford Center. Even though the game is against the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’s not even scheduled in Minneapolis. The game is scheduled far far away in Billings, Montana …
Maybe More Than You May Want To Know, but it seems to me that we ought to get to know the city in which our team’s inaugural game will be played and with which we will have a historical tie. According to Wikipedia,
The Census Bureau’s 2007 estimate listed the city’s population at 101,876. It is the 60th fastest growing city out of the 259 cities in the U.S. with populations over 100,000, of which Billings is #259.
According to City-Data.com, it is a predominantly white community: White Non-Hispanic (89.9%); American Indian (4.5%); Hispanic (4.2%); Two or more races (2.1%); Other race (1.4%); and Black (0.6%). It is near Yellowstone National Park, Pompey’s Pillar, and the area where the Battle of the Little Bighorn was fought.
Very nice looking arena … click the pic for larger
… and it appears that plenty of tickets remain available …
The Minnesota Timberwolves is our team’s 1st ever opponent. Comparing last season’s results, the teams are unfortunately rather evenly matched: the Wolves were 22-60 and our team, then known as the Sonics, were 20-62.
But, still, it’s apparently a fairly big deal in Billings. It’s newspaper, The Gazette, carried this story on August 15:
Minnesota, OK City to play NBA preseason game in Billings
Timberwolves to play at Rimrock Auto Arena for 3rd time since 2001
By MIKE ZIMMER
Gazette Sports Editor
Two of college basketball’s biggest stars in the past two years will show their stuff at the professional level at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in October.
Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves will face Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City in an NBA preseason game on Wednesday, Oct. 8. The game will mark the third time since 2001 that the Timberwolves have played a preseason game in Billings.
The game is being sponsored by U.S. Bank and will be billed as the U.S. Bank Classic.
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Oklahoma City, formerly the Seattle SuperSonics, will play its inaugural year in the NBA this coming season. After failing to reach agreement on a new arena in the Seattle area, the SuperSonics ownership group announced last month that they had reached a $45 million settlement with the city of Seattle to pay off the team’s lease with Key Arena and move the team to Oklahoma City.
If you’re looking for something a little different to kick of the 1st season, you might be interested in this 24KT Gold Coin Photo Mint plaque at Amazon for $29.95.
Watch Wednesday’s 8:00 p.m. game on KSBI-TV (to be renamed “Thunder TV) local channel 52, Okc Cox Cable channel 9) … pre-game may begin earlier. Maybe the local sports blog in Billings, the Cat-Griz Insider, will cover the game and provide a local perspective. This morning’s Billings Gazette carried Jeff Latzke’s AP story on the game, focusing on the Thunder.
GAME DAY! A few gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings, NW Expressway, to catch some wings and the 1st half of the game on the big screen, to commemorate the event. After getting behind by 13 points in the 1st quarter, the Thunder came back to lead at the half …
… and led much of the 2nd half, biggest lead at 9. Alas, by the end of the game, the score was 82-88 before the 3,817 attending the Billings arena. Chris Wilcox led the starters in scoring with 17 followed by Kevin Durant with 10. No other starter (Jeff Green, Nick Collison, Earl Watson) scored more than 4. Great play from the bench came from Damien Wilkins who scored 19 while playing for almost 31 minutes; Russell Westbrook looked great in his 19:43 minutes, scoring 13. See ESPN’s box score for more detail.
Oklahoma City Thunder’s 1st ever game is now done, and, yes, it is all real!