Thunder Don't Have An Easy Hand To Play
By Randy Renner
It's plenty bad enough when your superstar player who happens to be the best scorer on the planet and the reigning NBA MVP is sidelined for several weeks with foot surgery.
But now the impact of Kevin Durant's injury is compounded by all the others.
At times this preseason as many as nine regular roster players have been on the injury list forcing guys who were signed primarily to be extra bodies during training camp practices to actually play important minutes in preseason games and take over important roles in practice.
It's not a good situation to be in for a coach who already had wide open competitions at shooting guard and center.
It's not an easy hand to play and it certainly won't win you many ball games but it is what it is and Scott Brooks is trying to make the best of it.
"I thought today's practice was one of our best," Brooks told reporters. "We wanted to clean up some things was saw (Sunday night), I thought the players were locked in on the areas we needed to improve. We just need to continue to gain confidence within the group that we have."
Brooks is hoping to get his team healthy (or at least healthier) soon.
"Reggie (Jackson) practiced today, we'll see how he feels tomorrow and we'll make a decision on whether he plays (Tuesday night against Utah) but he did practice. Nick (Collison) participated in a little more than half of the practice so we'll see how he feels too."
Kendrick Perkins still hasn't fully practiced and of course promising rookie forward Mitch McGary is on a similar timeline as Durant with his broken foot.
"That's part of it and now we're able to see how our young guys and guys trying to make the team respond. It's unfortunate about Mitch because this would have been a great opportunity for him, but that's what it is right now."
And Brooks takes a little solace in knowing (surely to goodness) that guys will get healthy.
"I don't look at it as this is what we're gonna be for the rest of the season, yes we have a lot of things to get better at but we've also done a lot of good things when we had a lot of our (regular) guys in."
One of the pleasant surprises so far is seeing just how much of a competitor on both ends of the floor Anthony Morrow has been. Brooks has always known Morrow to be a dead-eye shooter but now he sees him as much more than just a 3-point specialist.
"You have to be able to compete defensively to be able to get minutes, simple as that," Brooks underscored. "Offensive players who don't compete on the defensive end have trouble playing and one thing I love about him is he competes on the defensive end."
Morrow says he's always been that way.
"I've been like that my whole life. This is a team I really wanted to play for because I figured they'd get after me and that's a way for me to get better. To come in and actually get a chance to guard guys like Kevin and Russell (Westbrook) and Reggie, those kinda guys, guys that push me every day, it can only help me in the long run."
Morrow has played different roles on different teams and it's beginning to look more and more like his role on this Thunder team, at least for the next few weeks, will be starting in place of Durant at small forward.
Is that a role he's comfortable with?
"That's something I've had to do in the past, when I came into the league was was guarding guys like Stephen Jackson and Cory Maggette so I leaned a lot from them early on and I played a lot of small forward my first couple years in the league."
Morrow said again today what he's said since he first arrived in Oklahoma City and was asked about his role, "whatever coach wants."
That's the type of attitude Brooks appreciates and the kind of attitude most all of his players have.
Now if just a few more of them would get healthy.