3 min read

Practice Report: Tuning up

About 48 hours away.

The Thunder tip off the 2013-14 season Wednesday night in Utah and by all appearances, they seem ready, well prepared and confident.

“It’s high,” Kevin Durant said of the team’s confidence. “We’ve put in a lot of work in training camp and preseason. We got better.”

The Thunder start the season on the road, which is somewhat of a buzzkill, but it might be a good thing because this team has to work on things like chemistry and feel, and being away from home often helps that.

“Of course everyone wants to play at home, especially at our arena,” KD said. “But it’s out of our control and Utah’s a great place to play. It’s going to be loud, especially since it’s opening night.”

The big questions leading up to Wednesday include two things, really: How will the second unit perform, and what will Scott Brooks’ rotation look like? For the latter, Brooks is still playing coy, for some reason.

“No. No, it’s still — even the first game, everything’s still fluid. You have to still continue play hard and well,” he said. “My job is to find the best players and the best combinations of players on the floor. Whether it’s starters or guys coming off the bench. And even the guys that won’t play the first so many games, they have to stay ready. Because nothing’s set. We have a good team. We have a lot of guys that won’t play. But those are the guys that are going to be valuable because it’s a long season and they have to stay ready.”

Really, the major rotation question that’s lingered is who gets the backup minutes behind Kendrick Perkins. For the opener against the Jazz, it’s already been settled as Hasheem Thabeet is suspended. But after that, Brooks is leaving the door open, despite Steven Adams clearly outperforming basically every other big man on the Thunder roster.

But maybe it’s just his way to temper expectations and keep Adams’ head level. Too much too soon for a young, raw player can sometimes give them an inflated amount of confidence. The Thunder preach hard work and process and probably don’t want Adams to think he gets to skip steps just because of a few solid preseason games. At least that’s my guess.

Still, things like how the rotation will look should be mostly known, especially in how many players he plans to play. Brooks typically likes to use 10 — that’s what he went with most of last season — but he’s acting like he doesn’t know right now even with tip-off about a day away.

“I don’t know. That’s game to game,” Brooks said of how many guys he’ll play. “You’d like to play all 14, but you can’t. To get a good rhythm you have to play nine to 10 guys. But you have to have everybody ready. Foul trouble, there’s lots of things that can happen in a game and during the season. You just have to be ready.”

Still, for game one, Adams will almost certainly play, as will Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson. The Thunder are banking on their youth to provide depth, something that’s a little scary for a contender. With young talent you have to try and be patient, and Kevin Durant was asked if that’s what the team is emphasizing around those guys.

“We’re not even preaching that to be honest,” Durant said. “I think that’s what everyone on the outside should have with those guys is patience. Just knowing this is their first go-around on this. Jeremy’s first time playing big minutes, Steven, Perry, Reggie — but we know we have patience with them. We know they can play the game of basketball. They do what coach asks them to do. We all know it’s a process.

“My whole first year was a learning experience,” KD said. “Well, everything’s been a learning experience but in terms of me finally getting it, my first two years were tough, just learning the game. So I can relate. People had patience with me and helped me out when I was making mistake, so I’ve got to do the same with them.”

We’ll get an idea of how patient everyone is feeling after Wednesday, I think.



On Westbrook practicing: “I don’t really know as far as timetables or anything to that nature. But it’s good to see him not always rehabbing but being around the team more. I know he’s ready to play, ready to help the team. Of course you’ve got to go through the medical clearance first. But I don’t know too much about that, I’m just going out there to play. But when the doctors say he’s ready to play, I’m sure he’ll be out there on the court.”

Practice audio via Randy Renner