By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The NBA regular season starts a week from Wednesday for the Thunder and the preseason ends with tonight’s game against Minnesota and then Tuesday night’s game with Denver.
So head coach Billy Donovan is hoping he can get a few more minutes from what projects to be his regular starters and rotation players either tonight or Tuesday or both.
The health of some of those players will play the biggest role in determining how many more minutes.
“Steven’s missed some games, Enes missed a game, same thing with Andre so you try to I think give them an opportunity to play a little bit more when they’re healthy and hopefully help them get back into a rhythm.”
All three practiced Saturday and Sunday and looked good. Kanter was held out of the Memphis game mostly just to give him some rest since with Adams out with a sprained ankle Kanter’s minutes had gone up. Adams seemed to be moving around easily Saturday but he was wearing a small pad or brace on his right ankle. Roberson has had some soreness in his right knee and has missed a couple of games but he also was moving around, cutting and seemed to be at full speed.
Donovan is hoping all three will be able to play tonight against the T-Wolves.
“Yeah they all practiced and they all left here in good shape but I think what (the medical staff) wants to do is just see how these guys respond from a day of contact and a day of full practice and then (at Sunday shootaround) we’ll have a much better feel. It really comes down to how they’re feeling.”
At this point Donovan doesn’t believe any of the aches, pains and sprains are serious issues. Cameron Payne of course remains out with his broken foot and Ronnie Price continues in concussion protocol but at least he was back out on the floor Saturday going through some light drills while wearing a red (do not touch) bib, similar to quarterbacks in spring football games, over his practice jersey.
“He wasn’t allowed to do any contact,” Donovan said. They’re kind of easing him back in, but I think he feels a lot better.”
Price is almost surely out for tonight’s game but potentially might be able to see some action Tuesday night.
“You know the one thing that’s been good the couple games,” Donovan pointed out, “is some of our younger guys have gotten the chance to play significant minutes which has been good.”
With Kanter and Adams both out, Joffery Lauvergne is now averaging 22.9 minutes per game. With Price and Cam Payne out and Russell Westbrook playing very limited minutes Samaj Christon has gotten an extended run at point guard and Roberson’s absence has given Kyle Singler a chance to showcase the stunning improvement he’s made with his 3-point shot.
Singler is now shooting 55.0 percent overall and a whopping 64.3 percent on threes. Alex Abrines has also gotten extended playing time and he’s responded too by hitting 50.0 percent of his overall shots and 60.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Both Singler and Abrines are coming off 5-for-6 nights from deep against the Grizzlies.
All preseason the Thunder have upped their game from out on the perimeter, now shooting 43.6 percent through their four games, second best in the NBA. They’re averaging 11 made threes per game which ranks fifth.
The biggest reason for the sharp shooting? With Westbrook and Victor Oladipo driving to the basket defenses are forced to collapse inside leaving at least one player outside open. Of the 14 made 3-pointers the Thunder had against Memphis 13 were assisted. OKC has assists on 84.1 percent of the team’s threes this preseason.
“If we can generate catch-and-shoot threes I think that’s a good shot for us,” Donovan said.
So far it has been but again this is the preseason. Opponents aren’t always running defenses the way they normally would and don’t always have their main defenders on the floor. Still, being able to get open looks and then knock them down is definitely a good sign.
Tonight’s game tips at 6 o’clock and for those of you coming to the game remember there is still a lot of road construction, especially on E.K. Gaylord Blvd on the east side of the Cox Center and on across Reno Avenue. So you should maybe plan to leave a bit earlier than you normally would.
There is no TV for the game but you can see a live stream on the Thunder website.