Aldrich Coming off Solid Month in Tulsa

Cole Aldrich considers his recent stint with the Tulsa 66ers as time well spent.

Aldrich, the Thunder’s rookie center, was recalled to Oklahoma City on Tuesday after a second assignment with the 66ers that had him appear in 14 games, which included a 13-game win streak.

I had a chance to catch up with Aldrich during a visit to Tulsa, and the No. 11 pick of the 2010 NBA Draft was coming out of a film session with assistant coach Dale Osbourne – they do that regularly – when we sat down to talk.

Aldrich spoke about his experience with the 66ers and how it’s helped him grow both on and off the court. He said he had daily conversations with the Thunder, from coaches and front office staff to players such as Kevin Durant, Royal Ivey and Morris Peterson.

On the court, Aldrich was steady, averaging 11.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 29.8 minutes a game. He had double-doubles in his last three games, grabbed 11 or more rebounds in four of his last five games and had eight-block and seven-block games.

“He had a good month and we wanted to make sure he had opportunities to play a lot of minutes and he did and he played well,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said on Wednesday. “We want to see him. He’s our guy, he’s part of our team and we want to be able to see him and see what the next step is. I think he had a good month, we’re glad he’s back and now we get to see him up close.”

Getting game-time experience was the biggest thing for Aldrich, who said he was “learning on the job.” Rebounding and protecting the rim were two areas of focus for him.

“Rebounding, obviously, but the little things to help our team defensively, like if the ball is over there being on the strong side help, just seeing the play develop before it does and just making sure that you help the helper,” Aldrich said. “It’s a lot of little things but they’re things that go a long way defensively.”

Tulsa Head Coach Nate Tibbetts said the 66ers didn’t ask anything out of the ordinary from Aldrich.

“It’s not like, ‘Cole we need you to get 15 points and 10 rebounds,’” Tibbetts said.

Tibbetts wanted Aldrich to focus on details such as fronting the post and being committed to the basketball on pick and roll plays, all of which will help Aldrich now that he’s back with the Thunder.

“I think the biggest thing defensively for us is getting the help side protection at the rim,” Tibbetts said. “I think he’s an NBA rim defender. When he first got here he wasn’t in great game shape; he’s in great drill shape. Our game is fast. Our game is a guard’s league and certainly at first it was new to him trying to stay with the pace and I think the last three to four games we’ve been able to see what he can do defensively as far as protecting the rim and just as far as guarding certain pick and roll situations. He’s doing a great job.”

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