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NBA's Thunder to play Oct. 17 at Intrust — end of lockout permitting

If the NBA lockout ends in time, the Oklahoma City Thunder is coming to Wichita.

Intrust Bank Arena announced Friday it will host its first professional basketball game on Oct. 17 when the New Orleans Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder meet in a 7 p.m. tipoff.

"The folks in Wichita have been asking us for the last two years about (a preseason game)," said Brian Byrnes, Thunder senior vice president of sales and marketing. "We knew there was a tremendous amount of interest in bringing a game to that market."

Byrnes said a clinic the Thunder held last summer at Lynette Woodard Recreation Center that featured current Thunder players and former Kansas Jayhawks Cole Aldrich and Nick Collison helped further spur the team toward pursuing a preseason game in Wichita.

"We've seen our viewership in the Wichita area spike, along with folks coming down and buying single-game tickets," Byrnes said. "When we came up for the clinic, we were overwhelmed by the support we got from the community."

The Thunder is not permitted to talk about the ongoing lockout and referred all questions to the NBA.

"Provided that we play, we'll be (in Wichita) in advance, doing some community-engagement stuff," Byrnes said. "We're going to work with the arena to set up a first-class game presentation and hopefully make this an every-year thing."

It will be the fourth of seven exhibition games for the Thunder, which is the closest NBA franchise to Wichita. It will be the first NBA exhibition in the city since the Hornets and Orlando Magic met at Koch Arena in October 2009.

The Hornets played in Oklahoma City during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons after Hurricane Katrina forced them out of New Orleans.

"Typically when you see these types of preseason games there's some type of regional draw," Intrust general manager A.J. Boleski said. "So (the Thunder) coming here makes sense."

There has been little movement toward the NBA and its players reaching a collective bargaining agreement. The last NBA work stoppage occurred during the 1998-99 season and it forced the season to be shortened to 50 games, stretching from July 1998 to January 1999.

Ticket prices and a date for sale haven't been determined.

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