Opinion: OKC Thunder fans, consider yourself warned — these tip times aren't normal
A few years back, I sat down one Sunday evening to watch a Thunder game.
It was right about 6 o’clock when I flipped on the TV. The team has that earlier start time for Sunday home games — 7 p.m. is standard the rest of the week — but I was ready to go a few minutes before tipoff.
But when I found the right channel, there was no Thunder.
I checked the national networks. Still nothing.
Finally after a little more detective work, I figured out the problem — the Thunder had played an early afternoon game and I’d completely and totally missed it.
I don’t remember now why the game was earlier. That Sunday evening, the why didn’t matter. The game was over. Nothing I could do about that.
I share this story as a warning, Thunder fans.
Yes, a warning.
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With the Thunder in Orlando preparing to re-start the season in a few weeks, you need to prepare, too. If you want to see the team play, you need to take note of the tip times for the games. And if you do, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
The start times are as random as the musings of a toddler.
Times for seven of the Thunder’s eight “seeding games” have been set, and they will be at six different times.
The varied times are a product of the NBA’s set-up in Orlando, of course. Twenty-two teams will be there playing eight games before the playoffs, and they’re only using three arenas. The league is trying to sequester teams for the least amount of time, so the games are pretty much all day, every day.
The first day of the re-start, July 30, is the exception, with only two games, Jazz-Pelicans and Clippers-Lakers. They’ll both be played in prime time. But for the 12 days after that, the games will start no later than 1:30 p.m. Oklahoma time, and most days, they’ll start before that.
And the early tip times aren’t just a weekend thing.
That will be the trickiest thing about the Thunder’s schedule, which is light on evening games. OKC’s first seeding game is Aug. 1, a Saturday, and it starts at 2:30 p.m. Sports fans are used to games in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.
But the Thunder’s next game is Aug. 3. A Monday.
Tip time: 3 p.m.
We aren’t programmed for games in the middle of a Monday afternoon. Not to say we don’t love such things — live sports in the daytime is one of my favorite distractions! — but it’s not what we’re accustomed to.
(And yes, this will be even trickier if you work a job where turning on the game isn’t possible. We’ll save that topic for another day.)
We are creatures of habit, but maybe during this pandemic, schedules have been changed to the point that we’re more capable of handling change. Maybe we’ll be able to roll with a Thunder game at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday. Perhaps we’re more likely to embrace a 3 p.m. game on a Wednesday.
Still, it seems odd.
A small glimmer of hope: the Thunder will play three scrimmage games before the seeding games start, and their start times are every bit as random as the games that will count. We don’t know if or where the scrimmages might be televised, but I have to think they'll at least be on the radio.
Consider it practice for all of us to get used to the weird game times. You don’t have to listen to or watch the whole scrimmage game — then again, what else have sports fans got to do these days? — but those games will give you a chance to figure out what works best for you.
“It’ll definitely be a little weird just because none of us is used to that,” Thunder guard Lu Dort said of the early start times. “But at the end of the day, we’ve just gotta get used to it and do what we have to do to win games.”
The rest of us have to do what we have to do to watch games.
Set an alarm on your phone.
Put a sticky note on your TV.
Develop a buddy system.
It might sound a bit overwrought, but I have missed a Thunder game because I got the start time wrong.
I don’t recommend it.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.