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Adelaide 36ers take on Suns, Thunder in preseason fixtures

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36ers coach Bruton on Kai Sotto's growth, future role & social media noise (2:31)

Adelaide head coach C.J. Bruton discusses where he wants to see Kai Sotto's game rise to, amid the hype that surrounds the 36ers' young big. (2:31)

After months of planning, one of the worst kept secrets of the NBL offseason has been made official, with the Adelaide 36ers heading to the US for two preseason games in early October.

The 36ers will meet the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 2, before heading to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Oct. 6.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the two-game set will mark the fourth time in six seasons that an NBL club will play against NBA franchises, with both the Suns and Thunder presenting significant Australian and league ties.

Jock Landale and Torrey Craig are currently on the Suns roster, while Josh Giddey and Ousmane Dieng are with the Thunder.

"We always want to test ourselves against the best, and for basketball that is the NBA. This is a fantastic opportunity for the club both on and off the court and one that will open doors for our organisation," said 36ers owner and chairman Grant Kelley via league release.

It will be the third time the club has taken part in preseason games against NBA franchises after visiting Salt Lake City to play the Utah Jazz in 2018 and 2019.

While the games provide another opportunity to showcase the league, they will present a challenge from a schedule perspective. The 36ers new-look roster won't open their season until round three, two weeks after opening night.

In an interesting scheduling quirk, Adelaide's first opponent, the Tasmania JackJumpers will be suiting up for their fifth game in the 36ers season opener on Oct. 13.

Head coach C.J. Bruton discussed the preparation with ESPN, choosing to take the optimistic view of the whirlwind trip and delayed start to the regular season.

"I would have liked to have done a lot of things if I knew our offseason would play out the way it did. I would have loved to go to the Philippines with Kai Sotto and the 36ers, it didn't happen. I would've loved to have played a lot of games in the preseason but with the NBL1 crossover it's not going to happen," Bruton said.

"I think an opportunity like this to go and play games and showcase the NBL to the NBA is a wonderful opportunity. For Grant Kelley and the NBL to help us through that is an amazing opportunity for our players to be able to embrace that and understand that we play a major role in connecting our competition.

"From Next Stars to our players who play abroad to the players who play for Australia who got us a medal, it all comes in and ties up well. As a club we get to represent the NBL and hopefully we do a great job in that space and represent well against the NBA teams."

The pair of NBL x NBA preseason games will showcase a number of new faces in Adelaide, headlined by marquee recruits Antonius Cleveland and Robert Franks. Speaking with ESPN's Ball and the Real World podcast earlier this week, Bruton identified traits in the duo that he believes will translate to success on the court in NBL23.

"They've both played little stints in the NBA, they've both played in the G League, they've both played in our competition and both have been very good at their trade.

"They're both good kids, they both want to win, they'll both do what's necessary for their team and they both had a skillset we needed as you saw from last year. Those two guys remind me of the past players I had to go against on a consistent basis and run through.

"I'm trying to think of talent in our competition, how you utilise it, make the most of it, allow them to breathe and see success within themselves and in the group."

Adelaide is looking to return to the postseason for the first time since reaching the Grand Final series in 2017-18.