Brooks Eager for Hidalgo Showdown vs. Rockets

Pushing one another to the limit literally and figuratively in practice is one thing, but tonight, the Thunder has the chance to test it's offseason progression against another team.

For the last week and a half since training camp began, Head Coach Scott Brooks' Thunder squad meshed each individual's summer improvement plan into a team setting, kick-starting the 2012-13 season. After intense, physical practices and competitive scrimmages, the Thunder comes into their first preseason game of the season tonight in Hidalgo, Tex. against the Houston Rockets with a readiness to go after someone besides their teammates. At shootaround this morning, Brooks saw the culmination of his players' hard work in his team's preparation for tonight's 7:00 p.m. CDT matchup.

"We'd like to see a lot of great work," Brooks said. "All the effort we put in the last ten days of practice, we want to see some carry over, some transfer. I think our guys have done a good job of working hard and preparing for the exhibition season."

While the Thunder continues to encourage and foster the development of its players' offensive games, the main focus of the team is on the defensive side of the floor. Throughout the preseason, Brooks and his coaching staff will be closely analyzing how the team comports itself on defense with both its basic principles but also some of the new wrinkles that have been thrown in over the last ten days.

"We wan to keep building our habits," Brooks said. "There's no question that we are a defensive team. We have to play with toughness. We have to play with the mindset that we're going to stop the basketball. We're going to stop the team from scoring then get out in transition and run. We have to have that mindset."

Without starting center Kendrick Perkins in the lineup tonight, Cole Aldrich will step into his place to provide tough defense in the post and solid screens on the offensive end. The third year man out of Kansas, along with fellow reserve bigs Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton, will all have the chance to play significant minutes during the preseason.

Brooks has been complimentary of Thabeet's length, athleticism and ability to pick up the system quickly, and mentioned that Orton has shown his ability to be a banger and rebounder down low on both ends of the floor. This morning he picked out Aldrich specifically to say that the big man's work ethic has put him in a position to play his brand of basketball with the first team tonight.

"Cole is going to have a great opportunity tonight," Brooks said. "He's been working hard. He's a worker. He hasn't had a lot of playing time the last couple years but we like what he does. He makes practice very competitive but now he has an opportunity to play."