Tom Hurley is a sports journalism student based in Preston, England. He spent 2012-13 as an exchange student at the University of Kentucky where he covered sports, including NCAA basketball, for the Kentucky Kernel daily student newspaper. Tom was sitting in the media room at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester having just watched both the Sixers and Thunder practice and speaking with players and coaches and reached out to WTLC to give us a first person account as to the goings-on leading up to today's pre-season game between Philly and OKC.
You can follow @TomHurley on Twitter for live updates from the Phones 4u Arena.
MANCHESTER, England - Oklahoma City concludes its European preseason trip Tuesday afternoon with a game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, England.
Tuesday's contest is the first time the NBA has played a game in the United Kingdom outside of London. It is not, however, Kevin Durant's first trip to the Northwest of England.
Durant and Russell Westbrook - who is not with the team following a second surgery on his injured right knee on Oct. 1 - were part of the USA team that played an exhibition game against Great Britain in Manchester on July 19, 2012.
In that game, three-time NBA scoring champion scored 13 points against a British side that featured Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng and Portland Trail Blazers center Joel Freeland. Almost 17,000 fans watched Durant, Westbrook and USA defeat their hosts, 118-78, in a warm-up to the 2012 London Olympics.
"It's great being back in this arena," Durant said to reporters at the Phones 4u Arena Monday. "It brought back a lot of memories walking in here. I'm excited I'm back and I know the fans are going to come out and support us."
"The fans were unbelievable last time," Durant said. "We played the Great Britain team, so of course they came out and cheered for those guys, but it's pretty fun to be back here and I'm excited to play."
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said he's not worried about being without Westbrook for the opening 4-6 weeks of the season.
"We are down a man with Russell but we're not down as a team. We have a good basketball team, (and) a lot of veteran players that understand what their roles are and how we play.
"When Russell comes back it's obviously going to make us a better team, but we're excited about the challenge we have without Russell."
One player Brooks is hoping will step-up in Westbrook's absence is second-year point guard Reggie Jackson.
Jackson scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting in 23 minutes Friday as the Thunder opened their preseason slate with a 95-82 win over Turkish Euroleague side Fenerbahçe in Istanbul.
In his 2012-13 rookie season, Jackson averaged 3.1 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 45 games.
"I think Reggie took a good step last season of taking another jump to be a better player," Brooks said. "I'm confident in Reggie, and the team's confident in Reggie.
In addition to Westbrook, another player who may not feature in Tuesday's game is starting center Kendrick Perkins.
The veteran big-man dislocated a finger attempting to collect a rebound in the first-half of Friday's game in Turkey.
Brooks said he spoke with medical staff before practice Monday and said Perkins would be limited during Monday's workout.
Oklahoma City's medical staff and Brooks will "see how (Perkins) feels" Tuesday before making a decision on if he would play against Philadelphia.
"It was a pretty bad dislocated finger," Brooks said. " One thing about Perk, he's a tough kid. He's gonna do whatever it takes to be on the court."
Tuesday's game gets underway at 2 p.m. CDT and will be broadcast live on NBATV.