Thunder Working To Shore Up Defense With Oladipo Out

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder guard Victor Oladipo didn’t practice again Friday and though head coach Billy Donovan didn’t officially rule him out for Saturday afternoon’s game with Phoenix he might as well have.

“Today the (medical staff) said ‘hey look he’s not gonna be able to practice today’, his wrist is still sore so I’ll check with them tomorrow but hey look because of his injury, the way it is, it’s gonna be something they’re gonna continually have to evaluate.”

So that doesn’t really sound like Oladipo is that close to returning from the sprained right wrist is suffered when he crashed to the court late in the 1st quarter of the Boston game.

His loss has probably been most obviously felt on offense because he’s the Thunder’s second leading scorer at almost 17 points a game, but his true impact is on defense and with him out of the lineup that part of OKC’s game has gone right into the ditch.

“In Victor’s absence those last three quarters (of the Celtics game) and these last two games certainly our defensive numbers are trending in a direction they were not trending before.”

During much of their six game winning streak the Thunder and a couple of solid practice days the Thunder had been able to work on shoring up some defensive deficiencies. Oladipo had been a big part of that because he’s a versatile defender who can matchup one-on-one on or off the ball. He’s also been instrumental in pick-and-roll defense.

Without him on the floor, the Thunder have a hole. They’ve given up at least 50 points in the paint in each of their last three games. Some of that is because guards haven’t been able to provide enough resistance to keep opposing players from getting deep inside.

Some of that, obviously, is because Oladipo isn’t there but Donovan says that’s far from the only reason.

“Any time any team loses a good player, it has an impact on a team regardless, but there are things we can do better that we didn’t do as well against Portland or Utah whether Victor’s there or not.”

And remember the Thunder struggled earlier in the season on defense when Oladipo was in the lineup and Donovan says it’s too handy an excuse to fall back on to say Oladipo’s absence is the sole reason for the slippage.

“When somebody’s missing it’s so easy to point at that one specific player like that’s the end-all, be-all and that he solves all these problems...I think that would be unfair to Victor and it would be unfair to our team. I think it’s an area we all need to grow and get better at as a team. Does Victor help our team? Absolutely. Does he solve all of our problems? No.”

Solve them or not it seems pretty clear the Thunder have fewer problems, at both end of the floor, when Oladipo is able to play and exactly when that will be again is something that could be a ways down the road.