Thunder Taking First Steps To Move Forward

By Randy Renner

The Oklahoma City Thunder fully realize they're in for a huge challenge, the biggest challenge they've ever faced and to that end the team held a long practice Monday, more than two hours worth.

And that is one of the positives with this situation. If you're going to lose someone as important to your team as Kevin Durant is to the Thunder at least you've got plenty of time to practice with a little over two weeks left in training camp and five preseason games to be played.

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"It is good that we're still in training camp," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks agreed, "we still have time to see how we can improve this team day by day that's the exciting and challenging part of my job, is to find those areas going into the season."

Perhaps more challenging than exciting because at the moment Brooks has only two starting spots settled, Serge Ibaka at power forward and Russell Westbrook at point guard.

"I think it's key that all of us stick together, we got a lot of guys banged up right now and we just gotta find a way to stick together and find a way to move forward and get wins," Westbrook told a large media scrum after practice.

"If anybody knows what it feels like (to go through a significant first injury) it's me and I've talked to Kevin, he's in good spirits and he's gonna get back as soon as he can to help us out."

Westbrook of course missed three dozen games last season when he had to have two additional surgeries on his right knee. Durant then took the team on his back and played his way into the MVP Award.

Westbrook doesn't see his game changing much even with his running buddy out of the mix for a month or so of the regular season.

"I just constantly need to do what I need to do to help us win games," Westbrook said. "I got confidence in my guys and they have confidence in me, I've got confidence in everyone in this building and that's all I can worry about is what's going on inside this building."

Brooks wasn't ready today to say how he will approach things in Tuesday's game against Memphis. One of the reasons he's not sure who will start where is that he's not sure yet who will be healthy enough to play and who won't be.

"Nick (Collison) is still out, he won't play tomorrow, Serge went through practice today, we'll see how he feels tomorrow, but he looked pretty good today and Reggie (Jackson) won't play," Brooks said. Of course center Kendrick Perkins and forward Mitch McGary won't play either.

"We have some injuries that we have to work though, and then we have to figure out how to get the best team on the court for 48 minutes."

And that is a challenge right now since the Thunder barely have enough healthy guys to practice.

"Injury is part of sports, you can't control it, yeah we've had some tough breaks the last couple of years but our guys don't make excuses we figure out ways to get better and move forward and this situation's no different," Brooks said. "My job is to make sure when (Kevin) comes back we're a better team."

Who knows though, much more of these injury bug bites and Brooks might just settle for having a healthy team when Durant comes back.

Randy RennerComment