Posted Dec 9 2011 6:17PM - Updated Dec 10 2011 2:34AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be surrounded by all the usual suspects as the Oklahoma City Thunder try to follow a trip to the conference finals with another deep playoff run.
The Thunder locked up the final missing piece from last season's 10-man rotation, agreeing Friday to a two-year, $6.5 million deal with guard Daequan Cook. General manager Sam Presti confirmed the move late Friday night, saying the deal "will keep Daequan a part of our core group moving forward.''
"I'm happy for him, first of all. To have him back on our team is big,'' Durant said. "A guy that worked so hard this summer. His role for us last year kind of grew toward the end of the season.
"I'm looking forward to seeing that kind of progress and build off that energy he had leaving the season last year, coming into this year.''
With Cook coming back, the Thunder are in an even stronger position entering a condensed training camp and regular season. They go two deep at every position, with everyone experienced in their role from last season.
While some teams had to open camp with only a partial roster because transactions were on hold during the lockout, the Thunder started out with 12 regulars on the floor plus training camp invitees Marcus Dove, Anthony Goods and Terrence Roberts.
"It's very important. With the season we had last year and everybody's coming back, our team is here and everybody knows what we need to do,'' Westbrook said. "I think it's important for everybody to be here on the first day of training camp, so it's a good thing.''
Nate Robinson, who seldom played after coming over in a trade deadline deal last season and isn't expected to remain with the Thunder this season, was absent as planned. Cook also wasn't allowed to participate since his deal wasn't finalized yet, and unsigned first-round draft pick Reggie Jackson couldn't practice either.
The rest were right back in their comfort zone, albeit in a brand new practice facility instead of their old one.
"Chemistry is a big part of winning,'' Durant said. "If we continue to grow as a group, we didn't make any really, really big changes, we stayed together, built with young guys and everybody's coming together pretty fine.''
After being eliminated by Dallas in the West finals, the only players in the regular rotation that weren't under contract were backup center Nazr Mohammed and Cook. Mohammed signed just before the lockout began, and Cook also got a qualifying offer in late June - a precursor to actually getting a deal done.
His re-signing was first reported by Yahoo Sports.
"Daequan's excited,'' said Mike Conley Sr., Cook's agent. "He wanted to be back there. They wanted him back.''
Cook averaged 5.6 points and shot 42 percent from 3-point range in 43 games for the Thunder last season after being acquired in a trade from Miami. He had a slow start to the season and was benched for 34 games but hired his own shooting coach to put in extra work and eventually earned a spot in Oklahoma City's rotation.
After he got a chance to play again, he averaged 6.4 points and shot 45 percent from 3-point range. He played in all 17 of the Thunder's postseason games.
"It wasn't always easy. He had his tough times,'' Conley said. "He had some adversity there in the beginning, addressed it and showed them he was committed.''
Cook said in June he hoped to return: "I love it here. Great fans and I fit pretty good here.''
"What it really took was just me having the confidence in myself that I'm going to get an opportunity and that I need to be ready for the opportunity, more than anything,'' he said then.
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