Back To Camp For Thunder
By Randy Renner
When the NBA schedule makers left the Thunder with a five day hole between games in January head coach Scott Brooks wasn't sure what do with it.
Then came all the injuries and all the regular guys getting back into action and then came the trade that brought in Dion Waiters and all of a sudden there was no decision to be made about what to do with all that extra time.
It's almost been like training camp with heavy practices on Saturday and Sunday and then today's session went a bit lighter and a bit shorter.
But some much needed work is being done.
"It's been a good week and we still have a day or two left," Brooks pointed out. "We just wanted to clean some things up on both ends of the floor and I think we've done some good things the last couple of days."
The defense had been slipping and the offense had been stagnant, not all the time but enough so that Brooks and his staff were becoming a little concerned.
"It's nice to have everybody back and it's nice to have some subs when you have a live scrimmage, we haven't had that in a while. So it's just been good."
With the live scrimmaging guys can get a better feel for where they need to be both offensively and defensively. And Waiters is able to get more comfortable with his new teammates and vice-versa.
"Just getting him familiar with our sets and with our defensive schemes and I think he's done a good job of blending in."
It's also given the coaching staff and the players a chance to learn a few things about Dion Waiters that maybe they didn't know.
"I like his competitive edge," Brooks said. "He has a spirit about him that he wants to compete all the time and that's what we want. He has the ability to make shots, he has the ability to make plays. I don't think he's just a scorer, I think he's another playmaker."
And Waiters made plays at both ends of the floor on Friday night, consistently staying in front of his man on defense, grabbing four steals and then shooting 50 percent from the field including that dagger three in the closing seconds of the game.
"We have to be able to do that, we don't want a bunch of dribbling, we want a bunch of good decisions." That last may or may not have been a verbal shot at Reggie Jackson who's been known to both dribble around too much and then make bad decisions.
Waiters clearly is a guy who can tighten up a rotation, certainly at the expense of Jeremy Lamb who didn't play at all Friday and more than likely at the expense of Jackson who played only about 15 minutes and after some less than inspiring play on defense was benched for the stretch drive.
Could Waiters even break into the starting lineup at shooting guard and move Andre Roberson to the bench?
"Right now Dion's coming off the bench," said Brooks, not totally dismissing the idea. "We have things to work on and things to get better at so I'm not focused on who's starting, I'm focused on the guys who are in there playing well. We just want guys to compete for those minutes and being around him (Waiters) he's gonna compete so that (starting) remains to be seen."
Brooks has generally always preferred a defensive stopper to start the game at shooting guard. Thabo Sefolosha over James Harden, Kevin Martin and Caron Butler. Roberson over Lamb and Jackson and Perry Jones and Anthony Morrow.
But now Brooks may have a guy in Waiters who can be both a deadly shooter and a solid defender.
It would still be surprising to see a switch but judging by what the head coach had to say today it would not be out of the question and with these five days of practice sessions it just might be even more of a possibility now.