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.