No Jackson or Lamb Tonight For Thunder

By Randy Renner

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks will once again go with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Anthony Morrow, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams as his starting five. That same group is making its third straight start together.

Brooks says although, "I like what I've seen so far," from that five-some he refused to say he's leaning that same direction to start the regular season.

"We still have several more practices to go," the head coach pointed out.

He seemed even more hesitant to anoint Adams with the starting center spot but he seems clear that Adams will be in that spot when the season begins next week because Kendrick Perkins still hasn't fully participated in a practice and is still hampered by that strained quad.

Brooks did get a little bit of good injury news today. Nick Collison will be able to make his preseason debut after having to sit out with a sprained ankle. Reggie Jackson is close to being back in the lineup but isn't quite ready for tonight. Brooks felt pretty sure that Reggie will be good to go by the beginning of the regular season.

Jeremy Lamb will sit for the second straight game with a thumb injury, Brooks said he's not sure how long Lamb will have to miss. So it seems just as the Thunder get someone back off the injury list someone else goes on it.

Because of all the injuries he said tonight it's possible the team will keep one of the four training camp signees. The Thunder have an open roster spot and Brooks said he's really been impressed with all four guys and that all four of them would get extensive playing time tonight against the Jazz.

Check back after the game for a video wrap-up featuring comments from Coach Brooks and the players. And be sure to monitor our feed page for game updates because once again tonight there is no TV broadcast.

Durant In Good Spirits As Recovery Continues

Thunder superstar Kevin Durant spoke with reporters for about 10 minutes this morning as his recovery from foot surgery continues.

Among other things Durant said everything is going well with his recovery and he's looking forward to being re-evaluated five weeks from Thursday.

He's hoping to get a good progress report then and be able to start preparing for a return to the court, but he also said he will not rush the process, "I definitely don't want to rush it."

Here is the audio of today's news conference.

Thunder Don't Have An Easy Hand To Play

By Randy Renner

It's plenty bad enough when your superstar player who happens to be the best scorer on the planet and the reigning NBA MVP is sidelined for several weeks with foot surgery.

But now the impact of Kevin Durant's injury is compounded by all the others.

At times this preseason as many as nine regular roster players have been on the injury list forcing guys who were signed primarily to be extra bodies during training camp practices to actually play important minutes in preseason games and take over important roles in practice.

It's not a good situation to be in for a coach who already had wide open competitions at shooting guard and center.

It's not an easy hand to play and it certainly won't win you many ball games but it is what it is and Scott Brooks is trying to make the best of it.

"I thought today's practice was one of our best," Brooks told reporters. "We wanted to clean up some things was saw (Sunday night), I thought the players were locked in on the areas we needed to improve. We just need to continue to gain confidence within the group that we have."

Brooks is hoping to get his team healthy (or at least healthier) soon.

"Reggie (Jackson) practiced today, we'll see how he feels tomorrow and we'll make a decision on whether he plays (Tuesday night against Utah) but he did practice. Nick (Collison) participated in a little more than half of the practice so we'll see how he feels too."

Kendrick Perkins still hasn't fully practiced and of course promising rookie forward Mitch McGary is on a similar timeline as Durant with his broken foot.

"That's part of it and now we're able to see how our young guys and guys trying to make the team respond. It's unfortunate about Mitch because this would have been a great opportunity for him, but that's what it is right now."

And Brooks takes a little solace in knowing (surely to goodness) that guys will get healthy.

"I don't look at it as this is what we're gonna be for the rest of the season, yes we have a lot of things to get better at but we've also done a lot of good things when we had a lot of our (regular) guys in."

One of the pleasant surprises so far is seeing just how much of a competitor on both ends of the floor Anthony Morrow has been. Brooks has always known Morrow to be a dead-eye shooter but now he sees him as much more than just a 3-point specialist.

"You have to be able to compete defensively to be able to get minutes, simple as that," Brooks underscored. "Offensive players who don't compete on the defensive end have trouble playing and one thing I love about him is he competes on the defensive end."

Morrow says he's always been that way.

"I've been like that my whole life. This is a team I really wanted to play for because I figured they'd get after me and that's a way for me to get better. To come in and actually get a chance to guard guys like Kevin and Russell (Westbrook) and Reggie, those kinda guys, guys that push me every day, it can only help me in the long run."

Morrow has played different roles on different teams and it's beginning to look more and more like his role on this Thunder team, at least for the next few weeks, will be starting in place of Durant at small forward.

Is that a role he's comfortable with?

"That's something I've had to do in the past, when I came into the league was was guarding guys like Stephen Jackson and Cory Maggette so I leaned a lot from them early on and I played a lot of small forward my first couple years in the league."

Morrow said again today what he's said since he first arrived in Oklahoma City and was asked about his role, "whatever coach wants."

That's the type of attitude Brooks appreciates and the kind of attitude most all of his players have.

Now if just a few more of them would get healthy.



Thunder Need To Get Their Act Together

By Randy Renner

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook plays with fierce passion. That can be a good thing and that can be a bad thing.

For several seconds Sunday night in Tulsa it was very bad indeed.

Westbrook's passion can fuel the Thunder. At times he can absolutely take a game over and provide just the spark his team needed.

We've all seen it, we all admire it, we're all amazed by it.

But that passion and fire has a way of backfiring and we've all seen that too. If officials calls don't go his way he sometimes has a tendency to argue the call even as play continues. Last night in Tulsa he drove into the lane and was hit as he made his move to the basket but no whistles were blown, no foul calls made.

Instead of getting up and getting back into the fray while his Thunder teammates battled for the rebound, he just sat there on the baseline and the Minnesota Timberwolves had a 5-4 advantage.

Minnesota went on to win the game 112-94 thanks in large part to 23 OKC turnovers and a lineup that continues to be racked by injuries and in a constant state of flux.

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks, who has called Westbrook the "best point guard in basketball," said his star can't keep flying off the handle.

"He's going to have to do a better job of controlling his emotions. You're not going to get (a call) on every foul that's committed on you and he knows better than that."

At least he should. Westbrook also picked up another technical foul, his third in the last three games.

With Kevin Durant out for the next several weeks, Westbrook is now the leader of this team and the example he set last night is not one anyone should follow.

As far the game itself Brooks again went with the starting lineup of Westbrook at point guard, Andre Roberson at shooting guard, Anthony Morrow at small forward, Serge Ibaka at power forward and Steven Adams at center.

It's looking more and more like that may be the group that hits the floor first in Portland on Opening Night next week though Brooks is quick to point out "we have one more game and several practices," left before the regular season opener.

Perry Jones led the Thunder in scoring last night, coming off the bench to play 30 minutes and score 21 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds.

Morrow scored 14 points but suffered through his worst shooting night of the preseason going just 5-for-13 overall and 0-for-5 on threes.

Ibaka regained his shooting touch last night going 5-for-7 and scoring 12 points but the duo of Adams and Roberson looked more like Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha as Adams took just two shots and scored four points while Roberson added two points.

The Thunder shot just 41 percent overall and 22 percent from deep.

They handed out just 15 assists compared to those 23 turnovers.

A lot of the inconsistency can be attributed to the different lineups that have had to play and the crazy rotations that have been used because of all the team's injury issues.

Nick Collison hasn't played or practiced yet and neither has Perkins. Reggie Jackson has been out for more than a week with a bruised wrist. Four training camp signees are getting more minutes than usual because of all that.

Hopefully this week some of the Thunder's walking wounded will be able to get back out on the practice floor and sharpen up their games before next week's opening road trip to Portland and Los Angeles.

Coach Brooks is right, there's still one more preseason game(at home Tuesday night against Utah) and several practices left before the team has to get on the plane for the west coast but there is no time to waste and especially no time for the All-Star point guard to sit down on the job while his teammates play on.

 

No Decisions Near On Starters

By Randy Renner

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks is holding firm to his mantra of 'more games and more practices' to go before settling on a starting lineup for the regular season.

Brooks now has three spots open, shooting guard, center and (with Kevin Durant's injury) small forward.

Last night in Wichita, Brooks sent out a lineup we hadn't seen yet in the preseason but it could certainly be one that bears repeating.

Russell Westbrook was back at point guard after taking the night off in New Orleans and power forward Serge Ibaka was able to play for the first time this preseason after being hobbled by a sprained ankle. Brooks again sent out Andre Roberson at shooting guard and Steven Adams at center. Adams has started all five preseason games partly because of ability and partly because of necessity. Kendrick Perkins is still recovering from a sprained quad and hasn't been able to fully practice yet, much less play. Roberson has started four of the five games at shooting guard and appears to be Brooks' clear choice for that spot.

The wildcard is small forward and last night Brooks opted to go with Anthony Morrow. That fivesome is a group I mentioned in a blog earlier this week but I had Morrow penciled in at shooting guard and Roberson over at small forward.

Last night that group played well but the Thunder ended up losing to Toronto 109-90. The minutes you need to pay attention to for the most are the ones where those five were on the floor together.

At the beginning of the game that group jumped out to a hot start and led 18-13 at the first timeout for substitutions. They also played well at the start of the second half.

"I liked what I saw," Brooks said after the game.

The final numbers for those five ended up like this, Westbrook 16 points and eight assists, Roberson, with by far his best offensive game, scoring 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds. He also handed out three assists and blocked a shot.

Morrow also had 15 points and made half his shots both overall (6-for-12) and from deep (3-for-6). Overall this preseason Morrow is hitting more than half his threes (11-for-20, 55 percent) which is of course outstanding. Morrow is a career 43 percent shooter from beyond the arc and last regular season hit almost 46 percent.

Adams saw his point production drop again, down to single digits for the first time this preseason but he hit four of his seven shots finishing with eight points while grabbing seven rebounds. The Big Kiwi fouled out though, which continues to be a problem.

Ibaka, appeared rusty as you'd think after not playing in the preseason. He was just 4-for-12 shooting scoring eight points.

Barring any more injury issues Ibaka should have time to knock the rust off by the time the regular season starts.

Perhaps the biggest concern right now for the Thunder (aside from all the injuries) is Jeremy Lamb. He continues to struggle mightily shooting the ball. Last night he scored six points on 1-for-9 shooting. Remember he was 1-for-14 in the first preseason game in Denver. In the five preseason games Lamb is shooting just 30.3 percent overall and is a meager 4-for-28 (14.2 percent).

Brooks thinks much of the problem with Lamb is a tendency to take bad shots.

"His offensive shot selection has to improve, you can't expect to make tough shots in this league."

Lamb also didn't play particularly well on defense and that's been an issue his entire career so far.

Perry Jones III also didn't do much last night despite being on the court for almost 26 minutes. In that time he scored six points and grabbed three rebounds. Jones was just 2-for-8 shooting.

If the Thunder are going to keep their heads above water while Durant heals from his broken foot they are going to have to get better production from both Jones and Lamb.

Each of them has shown flashes but their inconsistencies have been the main storyline. If that narrative doesn't change the Thunder could struggle early in the regular season no matter who Brooks puts in the starting lineup.