By Randy Renner
After what happened last season Thunder fans tend to be a bit jittery when players go down with injuries, no matter how slight.
Center Enes Kanter turned his ankle the other night when he landed on the foot of a Dallas Mavericks player and rookie point guard Cameron Payne sprained an ankle this week in practice. Kanter definitely won't play tonight at Memphis and Payne may not either.
Neither injury is believed to be all that serious.
Kanter was walking without a boot or crutches when he made a public appearance for National Seafood Week on Wednesday and head coach Billy Donovan told reporters before he and the team left for Memphis that Payne would likely be a game time decision tonight.
“I'm sure for him being from Memphis he certainly wants to play," Donovan pointed out. "I didn't get anything from the medical people that it was really serious, so we'll probably have to wait (until today) to find out where he's at.”
Regular Starters Expected To Play Tonight
Thunder GM Sam Presti said before training camp began he anticipated Kevin Durant and most of the other starters would sit out at least one pre-season game. If they do it will apparently either be Sunday at home against Denver or Tuesday on the road at Utah because Donovan indicated he wants to see his main guys play tonight to see how the new offensive and defensive systems work against the physicality of the Grizzlies.
"I don't think that for us going through the entire pre-season without being challenged, I'm not talkin' about on the scoreboard but challenged on our system's style of play and how we're doing helps you much," he said.
And how wants to see how the Thunder will respond to what the Grizzlies throw at them in what could be pressure situations.
"I think you want those kinds of things. I don't think you wanna be in situations where it's 30 point games."
Donovan could change his mind about who plays before the game though.
"We're gonna evaluate that a little bit more," he said. "Do we start a different team or keep those guys' (Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka) minutes the same? So we'll evaluate all that."
Memphis has everyone healthy but it's not clear how coach Dave Joerger plans to approach the game and whether he'll decide to rest some players. Early word from the Memphis media is that Joerger will go with his regular starters, but like with Donovan, that could change as tipoff approaches.
KD Looking Forward To The Challenge
Durant has been through these battles with the Grizzlies more times than he cares to count and as far as he can tell the atmosphere inside the place Memphis calls "The Grindhouse" is always the same.
"Every time you go to Memphis we know it's gonna be a grind no matter if it's a summer time scrimmage or a Game 7 in the playoffs," he said, "and we respect that. That's the type of team we respect. They don't talk too much they just go out there and play."
The Thunder will host the Denver Nuggets in their last home pre-season game on Sunday evening then they'll finish up out in Utah on Tuesday. The team will then have a bit more than a week to finalize preparations for the regular season opener on October 28th against the San Antonio Spurs.