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."