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OKC Thunder: The slate's out and first eight days should tell plenty

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OKC THUNDER: Extreme versatility, even a path to the playoffs could be available

Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, right, shoots over Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, in Chicago. Adams and the Thunder begin the 2019-20 season at Utah on Oct. 23.

It will be eight interesting days to begin the NBA season for the Thunder.

After a wild offseason that included the unloading of three starters and two superstars, Oklahoma City begins the regular season on Oct. 23 at Utah, a game it could raise eyebrows around the NBA by winning.

Two days later it’s the Washington Wizards at Chesapeake Energy Arena for the Thunder’s home opener.

Two days after that, Oct. 27, it’s Golden State at home followed by Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the Rockets in Houston the very next day. After a day off, the Portland Trail Blazers, who eliminated the Thunder from last season’s playoffs, visit Oklahoma City.

Those wanting a gauge on the Chris Paul-Steven Adams-Danilo Gallinari 2019-20 version of the Thunder should receive a fine body of evidence before the NBA schedule even turns to November.

Other noteworthy details remain:

• Though OKC will meet Westbrook, Harden and the Rockets the fourth game of the season, Westbrook will make his return to Chesapeake Energy Arena on Jan. 9.

• Also, while the Thunder first meet Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 18 — and return to the same building to meet the Lakers the following night — George will make his return to Oklahoma City on Dec. 22.

• For the first time in several seasons, OKC will not be on the NBA’s Christmas day schedule, a fact that’s not very surprising given the departures of Westbrook, George and Jerami Grant.

Yet, while those games are reserved for the marquee teams in the league and the Thunder don’t appear to be one of those teams this season, OKC’s dearth of coming national television games may still shock.

Last season, the Thunder appeared on ABC, ESPN or TNT 27 times. Coming up, they’re scheduled to play on those networks a grand total of three times: against Denver on Feb. 21 on ESPN; at Milwaukee on Feb. 28 on ESPN; against Houston on Jan. 9 on TNT.

• For a third straight season, fans can begin to ring in the new year with the Thunder, as Dallas visits OKC on Jan. 31.

• The longest homestand of the season begins Dec. 16 and lasts five games, four of which appear to be very winnable. The string begins against the Chicago Bulls, two days later the Memphis Grizzlies visit, followed by the Phoenix Suns two days after that and the Clippers two days after that. Then, after three days off, the string ends after another game against Memphis.

• The regular season’s end may be favorable to OKC. The Thunder’s final five-game stretch includes the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks at home, Memphis away, Utah at home and the Dallas Mavericks away.

Before any of it begins, OKC has a quartet of dress rehearsals, beginning their preseason schedule on Oct. 8 against the Mavericks in Tulsa.

Preseasons contests against the New Zealand Breakers in Oklahoma City on Oct. 10, at the Mavericks on Oct. 14 and at home against Memphis on Oct. 16 will follow.

It’s a new day for the Thunder and it all begins soon.

Oklahoma City Thunder

2019-20 Schedule

October

12, at Utah

15, Washington

27, Golden State

30, at Portland

November

2, New Orleans

5, Orlando

7, at San Antonio

9, Golden State

10, Milwaukee

12, at Indiana

15, Philadelphia

18 at Clippers

19, at Lakers

22, Lakers

25, at Golden State

27, at Portland

29, New Orleans

December

1, at New Orleans

4, Indiana

6, Minnesota

8, at Portland

9, at Utah

11, at Sacramento

14, at Denver

16, Chicago

18, Memphis

20, Phoenix

22, Clippers

26, Memphis

27, at Charlotte

29, at Toronto

31, Dallas

January

2, at San Antonio

4, at Cleveland

6, at Philadelphia

7, at Brooklyn

9, Houston

11, Lakers

13, at Minnesota

15, Toronto

17, Miami

18, Portland

20, at Houston

22, at Orlando

24, Atlanta

25, at Minnesota

27, Dallas

29, at Sacramento

31, at Phoenix

February

5, Cleveland

7, Detroit

9, Boston

11, San Antonio

13, at New Orleans

21, Denver

23, San Antonio

25, at Chicago

27, Sacramento

28, at Milwaukee

March

3, Clippers

4, at Detroit

6, at New York

8, at Boston

11, Utah

13, Minnesota

15, at Washington

17, at Memphis

18, at Atlanta

20, Denver

23, at Miami

26, Charlotte

28, at Golden State

30, at Denver

April

1, Phoenix

4, at Clippers

5, at Lakers

7, Brooklyn

10, New York

11, at Memphis

13, Utah

15, at Dallas