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The Oklahoma City Thunder return to National TV

The Thunder will play Miami on TNT on Jan. 10

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

For two whole seasons, the Thunder did not play once on national television. The last game that the Thunder played on a national broadcast was in September 2020 against the Houston Rockets. The seven game thriller against the Rockets is a world away from the current Thunder roster.

Chris Paul now plays in Phoenix, Dennis Schroder is in Los Angeles and Steven Adams represents the Grizzlies. Darius Bazley is no longer a wide-eyed, earnest rookie who charges up and down the court with relentless energy.

Over the last two years, the Thunder have rebuilt slowly with a focus on youth. The veterans were shipped out and Sam Presti went to work, assembling a roster of interesting young players.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken the leap and is leading the Thunder into a new era of basketball. Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren and Aleksej Pokusevski have all been thrown into the mix by Sam Presti. It is totally new roster, only three players remain from the ‘Three Amigos’ season.

Oklahoma City also received undue criticism from the national media for the purpose of memes and terrible punchlines. It seemed like every single day that the Thunder would be criticised for choosing to play young players without caring for the result.

It was egregious as the Thunder were not even the worst team in the league in either the 2020-21 or the 2021-22 season. OKC were a team to be crapped on and to be never given a chance to shine on the brightest stage of them all.

Finally, the Thunder are back on national television.

This is a huge opportunity for the Thunder to make a positive impression and show that there is something exciting brewing in Oklahoma City. The Thunder have one of the best young guards in the NBA in SGA, an otherworldly passer in Giddey and the man feared by all top-level scoring guards, Luguentz Dort.

A good performance against the Heat puts the criticism to bed and changes the narrative. It is impossible to overstate how big of an opportunity this is for the Thunder.

It is also an amazing chance for Gilgeous-Alexander to drive home his All-Star candidacy. Voting closes on January 21st and a big night against the Miami Heat would be the perfect way to make his case for this prized honour.