Long Home Stand Provides Opportunity
In the comfortable confines of the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, the Thunder will have had about two straight weeks at home before embarking on its next road trip.
Six-game home stands are a rarity during an NBA season, but the Thunder started one on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, and will play five more games before March 5th when it travels to Phoenix. With the facilities, staff and amenities at its disposal, the Thunder has a chance to get in some great work over the next week-and-a-half in order to get ready for the home stretch. With games spread out over the two-week span, Head Coach Scott Brooks can almost hold another, albeit abbreviated, training camp at the practice facility in late February.
“It’s always good to be home,” Brooks said. “We have a great environment here. Our guys love being in the gym. It was a good workout today.”
“We have a nice home stand and some very tough teams coming in,” Brooks continued. “We have to play well to win, but I like what we do here.”
With home games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers on tap, the thunder has a schedule that will benefit the return of point guard Russell Westbrook into the lineup after he missed 27 games with an injured right knee. As the team prepares for the final two dozen games of the regular season, having the full group at home, working together to improve, will only pay dividends come April.
“It’s a good time for us to get ourselves together for the next 26 games that we have left,” Westbrook explained. “We’ll just take it game-by-game and day-by-day. We’ll come in every day trying to sharpen our tools, getting our minds right and trying to make the next jump.”
Westbrook’s re-integration into the rotation is certainly a focal point of the next few weeks as he continues to get back into full game shape. While his minutes will be restricted to start, the adjustment process should be minimal. After all, the three-time All-Star has played in over 400 games for the Thunder with the core group, compared to just a handful of contests over the past year that he has missed.
The Thunder’s point guard has been with the team every step of the way over the past two months that he has sat out, doling out advice and watching with a keen eye from the sideline. As a result, the Thunder’s focus over the next few weeks will not necessarily be how Westbrook meshes back with the starting unit or how Reggie Jackson adjusts to getting back with the reserves. Instead, it will be finding a way for the group as a whole will to work together in the best way possible.
All 13 members of the team will be essential to the Thunder’s success over the final two months of the regular season and beyond. With Friday’s practice as a jumping off point, the Thunder will use the time it has at home with the coaching staff, trainers and equipment to find a rhythm with one another. With a bevy of options, versatility, depth and flexibility, the Thunder will continue working to find the best possible combinations and lineups to battle every situation.
“We have a good group of guys who have been around the program for a while, so we can always add things that we’ve done in the past, just like a refresher course,” Brooks said.
“It’s always about us,” Brooks continued. “The good thing about us is that we can play different style of play. We can mix and match starters and guys who come off the bench. I love what we do and the attitude that we brought today.”