By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
A shorthanded preseason gets a little longer today for the Thunder with key rotation players Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines still sidelined.
Both men have missed both preseason games so far and will miss today's game against Melbourne and more than likely the upcoming game at Denver too.
They are at least getting closer.
“I think they’re definitely getting closer," head coach Billy Donovan told reporters after Saturday's practice. "The hardest part for me is the time frame for when they’re actually cleared. They’re doing some things in practice, but they have not done anything contact-wise. I don’t know how long that will potentially take.”
Patterson and Abrines were on the court with trainers and assistant coaches for quite a while after practice on Saturday working on drills and putting up a variety of shots.
With a shortened training camp and preseason Donovan will hopefully be able to use the full week of practice the Thunder will have before the season-opener to get those two ready to go, that is IF they're cleared to full participate.
Russell Westbrook is back now from his PRP injection and Donovan figures to increase his minutes today and Carmelo Anthony will likely play more too and those minutes will take another bump up at Denver to finish the preseason slate.
"I wouldn't say necessarily the normal minutes rotation, but they're gonna wanna get extended minutes out there, absolutely," Donovan said.
The second unit will play extensively too and Anthony says right now that's a pretty big focus for the team.
“The second unit is going to be key for us. In order for us to be successful, we’re going to need those guys,” Anthony said. “That’s a unit we’re going to rely on when we come out of the game and need a breather and need to either sustain a lead, close a gap on a lead or we want to take a lead from 5 to 10 or 10 to 15. Those guys are going to be very important.”
Trouble is when Anthony comes out he would ideally be replaced by by Patterson and when George comes out, or Andre Roberson comes out, they would likely be replaced by Abrines and of course those guys are still on the bench because of their health situation.
Those injuries will make the process of this group coming together and fully syncing up take a little longer but Westbrook says it's going to happen.
“We’re still figuring it out,” Westbrook stated. “We’re going to continue to figure it out throughout the season. It’s going to be a season-long process.”
Tipoff is set for 2 o'clock this afternoon. The game can be see on on Fox Sports Oklahoma.