No Decisions Near On Starters

By Randy Renner

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks is holding firm to his mantra of 'more games and more practices' to go before settling on a starting lineup for the regular season.

Brooks now has three spots open, shooting guard, center and (with Kevin Durant's injury) small forward.

Last night in Wichita, Brooks sent out a lineup we hadn't seen yet in the preseason but it could certainly be one that bears repeating.

Russell Westbrook was back at point guard after taking the night off in New Orleans and power forward Serge Ibaka was able to play for the first time this preseason after being hobbled by a sprained ankle. Brooks again sent out Andre Roberson at shooting guard and Steven Adams at center. Adams has started all five preseason games partly because of ability and partly because of necessity. Kendrick Perkins is still recovering from a sprained quad and hasn't been able to fully practice yet, much less play. Roberson has started four of the five games at shooting guard and appears to be Brooks' clear choice for that spot.

The wildcard is small forward and last night Brooks opted to go with Anthony Morrow. That fivesome is a group I mentioned in a blog earlier this week but I had Morrow penciled in at shooting guard and Roberson over at small forward.

Last night that group played well but the Thunder ended up losing to Toronto 109-90. The minutes you need to pay attention to for the most are the ones where those five were on the floor together.

At the beginning of the game that group jumped out to a hot start and led 18-13 at the first timeout for substitutions. They also played well at the start of the second half.

"I liked what I saw," Brooks said after the game.

The final numbers for those five ended up like this, Westbrook 16 points and eight assists, Roberson, with by far his best offensive game, scoring 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds. He also handed out three assists and blocked a shot.

Morrow also had 15 points and made half his shots both overall (6-for-12) and from deep (3-for-6). Overall this preseason Morrow is hitting more than half his threes (11-for-20, 55 percent) which is of course outstanding. Morrow is a career 43 percent shooter from beyond the arc and last regular season hit almost 46 percent.

Adams saw his point production drop again, down to single digits for the first time this preseason but he hit four of his seven shots finishing with eight points while grabbing seven rebounds. The Big Kiwi fouled out though, which continues to be a problem.

Ibaka, appeared rusty as you'd think after not playing in the preseason. He was just 4-for-12 shooting scoring eight points.

Barring any more injury issues Ibaka should have time to knock the rust off by the time the regular season starts.

Perhaps the biggest concern right now for the Thunder (aside from all the injuries) is Jeremy Lamb. He continues to struggle mightily shooting the ball. Last night he scored six points on 1-for-9 shooting. Remember he was 1-for-14 in the first preseason game in Denver. In the five preseason games Lamb is shooting just 30.3 percent overall and is a meager 4-for-28 (14.2 percent).

Brooks thinks much of the problem with Lamb is a tendency to take bad shots.

"His offensive shot selection has to improve, you can't expect to make tough shots in this league."

Lamb also didn't play particularly well on defense and that's been an issue his entire career so far.

Perry Jones III also didn't do much last night despite being on the court for almost 26 minutes. In that time he scored six points and grabbed three rebounds. Jones was just 2-for-8 shooting.

If the Thunder are going to keep their heads above water while Durant heals from his broken foot they are going to have to get better production from both Jones and Lamb.

Each of them has shown flashes but their inconsistencies have been the main storyline. If that narrative doesn't change the Thunder could struggle early in the regular season no matter who Brooks puts in the starting lineup.

Bruised Thunder Battered in New Orleans

By Randy Renner

The full strength New Orleans Pelicans added insult to the shorthanded Thunder's considerable injuries with a 120-86 blowout Thursday night.

The Thunder had only five regular roster players available plus the four training camp signees so the final outcome isn't surprising, still Thunder head coach Scott Brooks wasn't at all happy with the effort his team showed.

"When you come back to an NBA bench from a timeout you expect to be tired and that has to be from the defensive effort. Anybody can take shots. It takes a prideful player to play on the defensive end and we have to make sure we do a better job with that."

Brooks was especially disappointed at his team's slow start, giving up 36 first quarter points, while scoring just 18 themselves.

"It wasn't a good game for us, that's an understatement. We've got to find some things we take from it and learn from it. I just didn't like the way we competed on the defensive end."

Jeremy Lamb led the Thunder in scoring with 20 points in 42 minutes of action. Lamb continues to struggle with his shot, going just 8-for-22 and 1-for-6 on threes. He did pull down seven rebounds.

Sebastian Telfair started at point guard. Russell Westbrook was given the night off and backup Reggie Jackson is out with a bruised wrist. Telfair scored 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting (2-for-8 on threes).

Second year center Steven Adams had his worst preseason game so far but he still managed to score 12 points and grab eight rebounds.

The Thunder just 39.1 percent overall and 21.7 percent from deep. They allowed the Pelicans to shoot a whopping 55.7 percent overall and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc.

And again, as those numbers show, the Thunder didn't play a lick of defense and that's what upset Brooks more than anything.

"I didn't like the way we competed on the defensive end. That's what we hang our hats on there on the defensive end and we didn't have enough competition on that end to compete at the NBA level and that's disheartening."

The Thunder flew to Wichita after the game and will play a "home" game there this evening against Toronto.

For the first and only time this preseason you can watch the Thunder on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Brian Davis and new analyst Michael Cage have the call. Tipoff is 7 o'clock.

The Thunder will have another "home" game in Tulsa on Sunday against Minnesota before returning to Oklahoma City to host the Utah Jazz Tuesday night in the final preseason game of the year.

 

 

Durant Has Foot Surgery

By Randy Renner

The much anticipated (or dreaded) foot surgery for Thunder superstar Kevin Durant has been performed at a specialist clinic in North Carolina.

Durant told Thunder doctors last Saturday after practice about an aching in his right foot and the following examination revealed a Jones fracture, a type of stress fracture, in his right foot just behind his little toe.

Durant, his representatives and doctors have been in consultations this week weighing options about having surgery done or just using rest to allow the fracture to heal.

Most athletes opt for surgery and that's what Durant ended up doing.

Durant's surgery was done by Dr. Robert Anderson at the OrthoCarolina Foot & Ankle Clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina. Durant will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

He's expected to miss up to eight weeks recovering from the surgery.

Brooks Excited About Adams-Davis Matchup Tonight

By Randy Renner

If you want to be the best, they say, you have to beat the best.

Thunder second year center Steven Adams is about to get a real chance to show just how much better he's gotten when the Thunder take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.

Adams will be taking on All-Star Pelican big man Anthony Davis and he'll probably also see a lot of Omer Asik too. Adams missed out on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph the other night when Memphis came to town but both Davis and Asik are expected to play, at least some, tonight.

Davis had 26 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a rout of Houston this week. He slides back and forth between playing power forward and center.

Kevin Durant has said Davis likely "next in line," for big time stardom in the NBA and Thunder head coach Scott Brooks doesn't disagree.

"He's definitely going to be one of the best players in the game," Brooks said after practice Wednesday. "To be considered one of the best you have to have layer to your game, you can't be one dimensional. He scores inside, he scores outside, he can put the ball on the floor and get to the free throw line. He rebounds and he blocks shots. He's a stat stuffer."

Adams is becoming more of a stat stuffer himself, especially this preseason.

His point production has gone from 15 in the first game at Denver to 19 in Dallas to 22 Tuesday night at The Peake.

He's shooting almost 90 percent (24-for-28) and Tuesday night even hit most of his free throws (4-for-5) and picked up just one more foul in 18 minutes of play after getting two in his first three minutes on the floor.

"It's always good to play against the best players in basketball, it's how you get better yourself," Brooks noted.

Adams appears to have made huge strides in the off-season and most everyone figures he's won the starting center job though Wednesday Brooks wasn't yed ready to make that official.

"We've got the rest of training camp to continue to evaluate, we've got a lot of practices and some more games to play but he's played well, he's done everything that we've asked."

Injury Update

It looks like the Thunder will still be very shorthanded tonight. I asked Brooks before he got on the plane to new Orleans if he expected any of his eight players now on the injury list to be able to play tonight against the Pelicans.

"I don't think so, as of right now, no. Hopefully within these next three games sometime."

The Thunder at least managed to avoid further calamity when both Adams and sharpshooter Anthony Morrow took hard fouls Tuesday night. Each came up limping at times during the game but Brooks said neither suffered any serious problems, though Morrow might not be ready for tonight's game.

"Steven's fine and Anthony's ankle was sore so he didn't participate in practice," Brooks said.

Morrow will likely be a game time decision based on how he feels later today.

Unfortunately there's no TV for tonight's game so we won't be able to see that Adams-Davis-Asik tussle there will be television though for Friday night's game at Wichita against Toronto.


Adams and Lamb Come Through For Thunder

By Randy Renner

Coming into the game missing eight roster players, most folks were wondering how in the world the Thunder would make it through the game against Memphis much less somehow be able to win.

Turns out they did fine, scoring 117 points even though Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were reduced by injuries to cheering their teammates on. Russell Westbrook did play and he managed to slice up the Grizzlies for 14 points and 12 assists. He also was docked for seven turnovers, but three and maybe four of those were mishandled passes by teammates.

The Grizzlies helped a little too keeping Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley on the bench for rest.

Still it was a pretty impressive performance and the guys the Thunder needed to step up did just that for the most part.

Second year center Steven Adams just keeps getting better and fast. He had 22 points for the Thunder Tuesday night. That output follows 15 and 19 point games this preseason.

Adams has now scored 56 points on 24-for-28 shooting (85.7 percent) in three preseason games. Tuesday night his 22 points came in just 21 minutes.

"He's doing a great job of setting screens and rolling to the basket," said head coach Scott Brooks, "and Russell is doing a great job of finding him."

Six of Westbrook's 12 assists came on passes inside to Adams.

"It's gonna be like that every night," Westbrook promised. "He's got big hands and a soft touch. I just tell him to be ready, the ball's always coming."

Adams has almost certainly played his way into the starting center job and besides with Durant out now the Thunder need the big Kiwi's scoring.

They also need Jeremy Lamb to show what he's capable of and Tuesday night Lamb had another good game with 23 points, six rebounds and four assists. Lamb's shot still isn't as consistent as he'd like, he was just 8-for-19 and 1-for-6 on threes, but at least he took advantage of a couple of mismatches and drove into the lane for close in shots and that gave him an opportunity to draw fouls and go to the line where he was 6-for-6.

Perry Jones showed up nicely too with 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting. He started at small forward in place of Durant. The Thunder would take a 12 point night from Jones any time they can get it. Brooks would like to see him "work on his defense," but the head coach also said, "Perry played good overall and is developing into a good 3-point shooter."

A guy who already is as solid from deep as about anybody came through again Tuesday night. Anthony Morrow followed up a 19 point night in Dallas last Friday with another 19 point night Tuesday.

"My teammates are doing a great job of finding me," Morrow said in the lockerroom. "I'm just trying to make sure I get to spots where I'm open and making it easy on the point guards. I just want to continue to do what I need to do to help the team."

The only downside to Tuesday night's win was that Andre Roberson struggled with his shot, going 0-for-4 and not scoring a point. His production has gone from six points in Denver to three points in Dallas to the big Zero Tuesday. The Thunder will more than likely start him at shooting guard when the regular season gets here but they'd also like to get something out of him offensively.

His defense continues to be solid and his effort is always great but shots need to start falling for him.

The Thunder are 2-1 now this preseason and 1-0 with out KD. They'll have a short practice on Wednesday and then fly to New Orleans for Thursday night's game with the Pelicans ( I still can't get used to typing that) and then it's on to Wichita for Friday night's game with Toronto.