Donovan May Not Go Into Season With A Set Starting Lineup
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan would like to get his “main guys” some more minutes playing together tonight against Denver but exactly how much depends on how those guys feel physically coming off of recent minor injuries and then playing several minutes Sunday night.
“I’m gonna visit with Russell try to talk to him about it a little bit, same thing with Steven and Enes and Andre, talk to the medical staff just to see where they’re at.”
Westbrook played more minutes (almost 31) than any player on either team. Roberson played almost 27, Adams close to 23 and Kanter just shy of 20.
“I was trying to give guys minutes (Sunday) I thought were reasonable trying to ease them back into a rhythm.”
Guard Alex Abrines left Sunday’s game with a bruised hip, he did not practice Monday and may not be able to go tonight against the Nuggets. Injuries have limited Donovan’s ability to experiment as much as he’s wanted to this preseason with different lineups and rotations.
“It’s been a bit more challenging for me because we haven’t been able to look at as many combinations both offensively and defensively because of guys being hurt, especially in our frontcourt.”
Somewhat because of that and somewhat because Donovan just looks to move guys around he’s not committing to a set starting lineup for every game. Obviously Westbrook will be the starting point guard and Adams the starting center but beyond that personnel and their positions could change frequently.
“Things definitely change,” Donovan said, “I think you look at different opponent (matchups) and teams you’re playing. Domas (Sabonis) is a guy that gives us great flexibility with our team (at power forward) because I think he’s fine either starting or coming off the bench. So I think you just try to pair guys and match guys.”
Sabonis has started every preseason game at power forward and he appears to have the job of replacing Serge Ibaka at that position but as Donovan indicated certain matchups could favor Enes Kanter pairing up with Adams or even Joffrey Lauvergne.
“I wanted to play Joffrey more (Sunday) at the power forward spot with Steven and Enes being back because he’s been caught playing the center spot (with Adams and Kanter out)” Donovan said. “So I thought that was something good to look at. I played a little of Joffrey and Domas together just to see what that looked like. I haven’t had a chance really to do much with Steven and Enes just because we’ve been limited in practice but that’s something we’re gonna work on and continue to develop.”
Last season, in a significant departure from how former head coach Scott Brooks handled things, Donovan tended change up rotations and at times starters at certain positions to take better advantage of some opponent mismatches.
The tactic was a bit of a head scratcher early in the season with a team that was already a championship contender but the moves paid big dividends in the playoffs.
Now with a team with less lineup certainty “professor” Donovan is even more free to crank up the experiments.
Nuggets In Town Tonight
The Thunder wrap-up their preseason schedule with the 3-3 Denver Nuggets visiting The Peake. Denver is coming off a 106-97 win against Portland Sunday night.
Point guard Emmanuel Mudiey sprained his right ankle against Golden State Friday and will not play. The Thunder will likely have to deal with 7-foot center Jusuf Nurkic though who is averaging 15.2 points and 11.2 rebounds in five preseason games.
Nurkic also is drawing a LOT of fouls, he leads the NBA in preseason free throw attempts (8.4 per game) and is making 81.0 percent of those attempts.
Tipoff is set for 7:10. The game will not be on TV but you can watch a live stream of the game on the Thunder team website.
The Thunder announced Monday afternoon they have signed veteran 6-6 guard Reggie Williams, who was on the Thunder roster briefly a couple seasons ago also.
Williams has played in 200 NBA games and spent last season playing in Russia where he averaged 13.6 points on 58.8 percent shooting (40.7 percent on threes).
The team also released rookie guard Alex Caruso. Both players are likely to end up playing for the Thunder’s D-League team the Oklahoma City Blue.
With the double move the Thunder roster remains at the NBA training camp maximum of 20 players. The roster has to be cut down to 15 players by Opening Day.