Basketball

NBA’s Thunder skips Wichita for preseason game

Oklahoma City Thunder fans Aaron Rayner and Sarah Stuart sat near the court during the preseason NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Intrust Bank Arena in October 2014.
Oklahoma City Thunder fans Aaron Rayner and Sarah Stuart sat near the court during the preseason NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Intrust Bank Arena in October 2014. The Wichita Eagle

The Oklahoma City Thunder will not play an exhibition game at Intrust Bank Arena this fall, ending a three-season streak of well-attended games in downtown Wichita.

A Thunder spokesman cited a reduction in NBA preseason games and assured fans the team will consider a return.

“The NBA is reducing the Thunder preseason schedule and we are required to play a certain number of home games in OKC as well as road games,” Dan Mahoney, vice president of broadcasting and corporate communications, wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, that means we were unable to schedule a preseason game in Wichita this year. Our previous games in Wichita have been very successful and we have a loyal fan base there. We will continue to look for preseason opportunities for Wichita in the future.”

The Thunder released its preseason schedule on Tuesday. It includes six games and begins Oct. 7 at Minnesota. The Thunder plays two home games and one in Tulsa. The Thunder played seven preseason games the previous three seasons.

The NBA, which announced its regular-season schedule earlier this month, wants to reduce wear on its players by spreading out regular-season games to cut back on back-to-back games and four in five nights. Cutting back on preseason schedules is part of the plan to ease travel and improve the quality of play during the regular season.

Last season, 13,161 fans watched Toronto defeat Oklahoma City 109-90 at Intrust Bank Arena. In 2013, a capacity crowd of 15,004 watched Chicago defeat Oklahoma City 104-95. The first Thunder game drew a sold-out crowd of 15,004 for an 88-76 Thunder win over Dallas in 2012.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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