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Tracking the Player Returns to OKC Ahead of the 2021-22 Season

A plethora of former Thunder players will be returning to the Paycom Center this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder fans haven’t been able to set foot in their home arena since March 11, 2020.

But thankfully, the masses will return this season, packing into the newly minted Paycom Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

In the year away, Thunder fans missed a few key player returns, but there will be plenty of former Thunder players returning to the Paycom Center this season.

Oct. 27: Russell Westbrook

The Los Angeles Lakers always bring the show with them when they arrive in Oklahoma City, but this year the Purple and Gold bring OKC’s favorite superstar, Russell Westbrook.

Though it’s not the first time Westbrook will step foot in OKC in an opposing uniform, it’s still primed to be a special occasion as Westbrook dedicated 11 action packed years to the Thunder franchise.

Carmelo Anthony will also make his return to Oklahoma City with the Lakers, but Westbrook is the main event.

The Lakers will pay another visit to the Paycom Center on Dec. 10.

Nov. 14: Kevin Durant and James Harden

The other two members of OKC’s former Big 3 will pay their only visit to the Sooner State on Nov. 14.

Kevin Durant and James Harden, finally with an entire offseason to work together, will hope that this season with the Nets is much more straightforward and devoid of the injuries which plagued Brooklyn’s year last season.

Both leaving on rather complicated terms, the atmosphere inside the Paycom Center will likely be a night and day difference from the reception Westbrook will get in late October.

Dec. 18: Paul George, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Patrick Patterson

The Los Angeles Clippers boast the most former Thunder players per capita, or so it seems. Paul George, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Patrick Patterson are all scheduled to make their returns on Dec. 18, though the Clippers often employ plenty of load management to keep their key players healthy throughout the 82-game grind of the NBA season.

Still, it will afford Thunder fans another opportunity to greet a number of former players in a real mixed bag spanning from affection for Ibaka to the loathing of Jackson.

Dec. 22: Jeff Green

The Denver Nuggets picked up the veteran services of Jeff Green this offseason after he spent the last season playing alongside Durant in Brooklyn.

Now in the same division as the Thunder, Green will make multiple trips back to Oklahoma City this season, with the second coming on Jan. 9.

Dec. 31: Nerlens Noel, Kemba Walker and Taj Gibson

The Thunder will host the resurgent New York Knicks on New Year’s Eve, welcoming back a pair of former rotational players for OKC.

Nerlens Noel had a productive pair of years with the franchise, helping recoup some value on the free agent market after leaving the Dallas Mavericks. Taj Gibson also played 23 games with the Thunder in the back half of the 2016-17 season, and Kemba Walker will make his first appearance in the Paycom Center since getting acquired and then subsequently bought out this offseason.

Jan. 26: Billy Donovan and Tony Bradley

When the Chicago Bulls make the trip to OKC in late January, it will be Billy Donovan’s first time back in front of fans in the Paycom Center.

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After spending five seasons on the sidelines with the Thunder, Donovan and the organization mutually agreed to part ways ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Alongside Donovan, center Tony Bradley is scheduled to return after spending the second half of the 2020-21 season with the Thunder.

Jan. 28: Domantas Sabonis

Domantas Sabonis only spent his rookie season with the Thunder, but he’s carved out a nice role for himself with the Pacers.

A two-time All-Star, the Lithuanian is one of the more gifted scoring bigs in the NBA.

Feb. 24: Chris Paul

Chris Paul will make his first return in front of Thunder fans in February.

Only spending a year with the franchise, his veteran leadership and surprise playoff run meant OKC fans quickly loved Paul and his efforts for the Thunder.

Getting dealt to Phoenix, Paul reprised his role of valued leader, spearheading the Suns’ NBA Finals appearance.

March 13: Steven Adams

Fan favorite Steven Adams will also make his first return to Oklahoma City in front of fans this season.

Playing last year for the New Orleans Pelicans, the Big Kiwi was again on the move this offseason.

Thunder fans will be able to welcome him back in March as Adams plays alongside explosive young playmaker Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies.

March 21: Dennis Schroder and Al Horford

Dennis Schroder will also be making his first return trip to the Paycom Center in front of fans after joining the Boston Celtics from the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason.

The German’s time in OKC spanned an era of transition as he played both alongside Westbrook and Paul while Sam Presti put the gears in motion which started off the Thunder rebuild.

Al Horford was a nice piece last year for the Thunder, but he was shut down after Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to preserve his future trade value for the Thunder.

March 30: Danilo Gallinari

Danilo Gallinari only spent one season with the Thunder as he arrived alongside Gilgeous-Alexander in the Paul George trade.

The Italian left via a sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks, allowing the Thunder to collect an extra asset instead of nothing as he intended to leave in free agency. Gallinari will return to support young star Trae Young at the end of March.

April 1: Jerami Grant

In his second stop since leaving the Thunder, Jerami Grant has played a much bigger part in the Pistons offense since his arrival. Grant averaged a career-high 22.3 points per game last year with the Pistons, and he’ll hope to put his shooting stroke back on full display in Oklahoma City to start off April.


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