Finally Thunder Starting To Get Healthy

By Randy Renner

It will still be Thanksgiving before the Thunder are anywhere close to having Kevin Durant and Mitch McGary back from their foot surgeries but head coach Scott Brooks is in a thankful mood anyway because everyone else on the regular roster has returned to practice.

"Reggie (Jackson) practiced Jeremy (Lamb) did the same and Perk (Kendrick Perkins) is doing the same also.

Since training camp began a dozen of the 14 roster players missed at least one practice, many of those dozen missed several plus some of the preseason games. At one point nine players were out at the same time.

So now Brooks can finally actually work on practices featuring players he will actually have on opening night in the roles they will have then.

"You always want your full deck and now we just have to continue to work on our conditioning and get the rust off our bodies and I thought today was a good day for that."

The good injury news couldn't have come at a better time, with still a few days of practice to go before the opening road trip of the season and with Durant still out the Thunder will have to be at the top of their game to compensate.

"Without Kevin we're going to have to play very well," Brooks admitted, "we can't have a lot of off nights."

Off nights is about all we've seen during preseason games. Some individuals shined at certain times but overall the team didn't look particularly good, especially in the final four games.

Some of it was because of injuries and some of it is just how it is in preseason, winning games isn't really the bottom line.

"If we really wanted to lock in and try to win all seven games with our best lineups it probably would have been a little different outcome but we were focused on getting everybody an opportunity and seeing what we have with some of the lineups we're gonna have to go forward with. But, we definitely need to work on a lot of areas."

Veteran forward Nick Collison acknowledged as much in the postgame lockerroom after Tuesday's loss to Utah. He's excited now to finally be able to move forward with more healthy teammates.

"It will help, getting more experienced guys back and healthy because they've done it before but, especially with Kevin out we have to be a real solid team and it has to be hard for teams to score on us."

The schedule maker didn't make things very easy for the Thunder, opening up with a road back-to-back in Portland and then Clipperland, a quick one game homestand against Denver and then back on the road to the other end of the country for another back-to-back in Brooklyn and then across the border to Toronto.

So things will get serious quickly for a team trying to find its way with increased ball-movement on offense and without the reigning MVP.

"That'll be the test when we get into tough games," Collison said, "do we just try to get a shot up or do we really try to work at what we're doing and try to keep in mind the big picture and where we're trying to get."

With that tough stretch looming next week what would Collison like to see he and his teammates get accomplished with these last full practices?

"Tighten up the fundamental part of it, we have to cut down a lot on mistakes, we have to be a team that gets back every time and makes the opposition score over five guys every time and we have to make it hard to get easy shots on us. When you're playing against really good teams that's hard to do."

Unfortunately for the Thunder, 'really good teams' are pretty much the only kind of teams they'll play over the first six games of the season.

Survey Says...

By Randy Renner

My friends at NBA.com have published the results of their annual survey of the league's general managers and as always there are some interesting results.

The fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder show up well for the second straight year as Chesapeake Energy Arena was again voted to have the best home court advantage in the NBA.

Denver and the Pepsi Center finished 2nd and the Golden State Warriors with Oracle Arena were voted 3rd.

Some other areas that featured the Thunder, Kevin Durant was voted as the player who is best at getting his own shot (42.9%) and Carmelo Anthony was 2nd.

Russell Westbrook and John Wall finished in a tie for the player voted fastest with the ball. Westbrook also finished in a tie with Blake Griffin for 2nd in the voting for the NBA's most athletic player, LeBron James finished first in that category. And Russ was 2nd overall to Chris Paul as to who is the best point guard.

The Thunder finished 4th when GMs were asked which team is the most fun to watch? Golden State finished 1st, the Clippers were 2nd and the Spurs 3rd.

Serge Ibaka finished 2nd behind the Bulls Joakim Noah as to who is the NBA's best interior defender. Serge finished tied for 3rd with Dwight Howard when GMs were asked to name the best overall defender in the NBA. Again Noah was 1st and James was 2nd.

There were 56 questions on the survey and you can see it all by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Brooks: "I'm concerned, but..."

By Randy Renner

The Oklahoma City Thunder once again struggled to do things right and lost this time to the Utah Jazz 105-91 to finish the preseason at 2-5.

Preseason games usually don't mean very much and this season they probably mean even less with as much as the Thunder have had to piece together lineups because of all the injuries.

One big bright spot tonight was Nick Collison getting back in the lineup and he showed up in a big way hitting two 3-pointers and another jumper to finish with eight points. Russell Westbrook also had a nice night with 14 points and 11 assists.

Otherwise there wasn't much good goin on.

The Thunder sent Jazz players to the free throw line 41 times and the Jazzmen hit 30 of those shots. The Thunder meanwhile got to the line 26 times and hit an embarrassing 13 of those. When the other team makes more free throws than you attempt that's usually not a good sign.

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks gave credit to Utah but also said, "we have a lot of things we have to tighten up on. We had some bright spots offensively, but defensively we have things we need to work on."

Some of these preseason losses have been ugly and Brooks was asked how concerned he is heading into the regular season.

"I'm concerned," Brooks admitted, "but I'm not down on the guys. We're still trying to figure some things out."

Like for instance who's gonna start at shooting guard, small forward and center and who's gonna be in the rotations. And in order to do that with any certainty it'd be kinda nice to have some guys come off the injury list.

Hopefully this week Reggie Jackson will be back to full strength and hopefully sometime soon Kendrick Perkins will be able to practice. Jeremy Lamb missed the Utah game with a thumb injury and of course you know Kevin Durant and Mitch McGary won't be out of their foot casts till sometime around Thanksgiving and on and on it goes.

But back to that bright spot.

"I felt really good out there," Nick Collison told a group of reporters in the lockerroom. "That's the first time I've been able to play 5-on-5 this preseason. It just feels good to be back."

Collison also sees the problems his team is dealing with but doesn't see any quick fixes.

"We definitely have some work to do. We have to have more consistency on both ends of the floor. Fundamentally there's a lot of breakdowns, so we just have a lot of work to do."

Some of those breakdowns can be attributed to younger players playing increased minutes and different roles than they've gotten used to. It can also be attributed to all the mixing and matching that's had to go on because of all the injuries.

Most of the problems have shown up on defense where Collison and Perkins and Serge Ibaka for a while too have not been able to practice.

"I'm glad the games are over," Brooks said, "so we can focus now on practice. We need to get our starting lineup set and tighten up our rotations."

Brooks has started Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Anthony Morrow, Ibaka and Steven Adams the last three preseason games and that may very well be the lineup he sends out on the floor to start the regular season next Wednesday night in Portland.

That starting five finished with 51 points, Westbrook and Ibaka each with 14, Morrow with 11, Adams with nine and Roberson with three. Perry Jones came off the bench to score 20.

The Thunder played well in spurts and then collapsed only to play well again for another spurt.

Inconsistency has become constant.

That's something this team is probably going to have to live with the first part of the season but every effort will be made to tighten up all the loose ends.

"We just have to get better," said the old veteran Collison and then he added, "but we have our work cut out for us."

 

No Jackson or Lamb Tonight For Thunder

By Randy Renner

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks will once again go with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Anthony Morrow, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams as his starting five. That same group is making its third straight start together.

Brooks says although, "I like what I've seen so far," from that five-some he refused to say he's leaning that same direction to start the regular season.

"We still have several more practices to go," the head coach pointed out.

He seemed even more hesitant to anoint Adams with the starting center spot but he seems clear that Adams will be in that spot when the season begins next week because Kendrick Perkins still hasn't fully participated in a practice and is still hampered by that strained quad.

Brooks did get a little bit of good injury news today. Nick Collison will be able to make his preseason debut after having to sit out with a sprained ankle. Reggie Jackson is close to being back in the lineup but isn't quite ready for tonight. Brooks felt pretty sure that Reggie will be good to go by the beginning of the regular season.

Jeremy Lamb will sit for the second straight game with a thumb injury, Brooks said he's not sure how long Lamb will have to miss. So it seems just as the Thunder get someone back off the injury list someone else goes on it.

Because of all the injuries he said tonight it's possible the team will keep one of the four training camp signees. The Thunder have an open roster spot and Brooks said he's really been impressed with all four guys and that all four of them would get extensive playing time tonight against the Jazz.

Check back after the game for a video wrap-up featuring comments from Coach Brooks and the players. And be sure to monitor our feed page for game updates because once again tonight there is no TV broadcast.

Durant In Good Spirits As Recovery Continues

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant spoke with reporters for about 10 minutes this morning as his recovery from foot surgery continues.

Among other things Durant said everything is going well with his recovery and he's looking forward to being re-evaluated five weeks from Thursday.

He's hoping to get a good progress report then and be able to start preparing for a return to the court, but he also said he will not rush the process, "I definitely don't want to rush it."

Here is the audio of today's news conference.