By Michael Kinney
The Oklahoma City Thunder are taking their new cast of players thousand of miles away to get some bonding time in. As the team is still learning each other names and game, they are leaving Sept. 30 for a week long trip in Spain where they will take on the countries two best basketball franchises in exhibition games.
However, the Thunder are leaving with a small dark cloud hovering over them. Coming out of the team’s annual Blue and White scrimmage Tuesday, backup point guard Cameron Payne suffered an acute fracture to his fifth metatarsal on his right foot.
Initially during the scrimmage Thunder officials said Payne had just bumped knees then stated he had tweaked his ankle. But late Wednesday that new turned to a fractured bone.
“I feel bad for Cameron or any player that gets hurt,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He has to sit out. But he’s in great hands here and his spirits seems to be pretty good. I think anytime some get hurt and doesn’t get a chance to do hat they love, I feel bad about that.”
Payne was seen at Oklahoma City’s practice Thursday morning wearing a walking boot on his right foot. There is no set timetable for his return to the lineup.
Payne is just a couple of months removed from having surgery to the same bone. However, the Thunder contend the injuries are unrelated.
Regardless, Payne will be out of the lineup for some time. That gives other guards on the team to showcase their skills and battle for playing time.
The Thunder will get their first real look at the entire team Oct. 3 when they take on Real Madrid in Madrid, Spain. Two days later they will take their show to Barcelona to face FC Barcelona. Both games will be available on NBA TV.
Oklahoma City has several players on their roster who have experience playing in the Spanish Basketball League. They include rookies Alex Abrines and Domantas Sabonis and veteran Kyle Singler.
Besides their work on the court, all three are going to be counted on as tour guides for the team.
“Obviously, some players asked us to show them around because me and Alex (Abrines) know Spanish,” Sabonis said. “To be their translator or something. It’s going to be a fun trip.”
Abrines was born in Spain and is already looking forward to getting back home to get some home cooking.
“I told them to expect a lot,” Abrines said. “They have been asking for like everything. Restaurants, where to go. I will help the best I can. I know Barcelona more than Madrid. I will take care of them.”