Practice Report: Thunder Prepares for Lakers

It didn’t take long for members of the Oklahoma City Thunder to put Friday’s loss at Orlando behind them and welcome in three new teammates. When reporters walked into the practice area, lots of excited and happy shouts could be heard as players finished up drills. The “new guys” seemed to be fitting in just fine with everyone else.

“I thought they were great,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said after practice, referring to newcomers Nazr Mohammed, Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. “They’re excited to be here. We’re putting in some defensive plays for them now that they’ll have to pick up, but I don’t see that as a problem. A lot of sets are the same around the league, just different names and numbers. But they came in and gave us great energy.”

Both Mohammed and Robinson practiced, but Perkins did not as he continues to recover from a sprained knee. Brooks said both Robinson and Mohammed should be ready to go Sunday when the Thunder takes on the Los Angeles Lakers in a nationally televised match-up (1:30 p.m. Central, ABC-TV).

“Yes, they’ll both be available. We’re gonna get everybody integrated into our system as soon as possible," Brooks said. "Our guys welcomed the three new members of our team quickly. Right now I plan to go with the same starting lineup as Orlando (Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha), but Nazr will play.”

Robinson might also see some time on the floor, but Brooks said it’s much more difficult to find minutes for a third point guard.

As far as the opposition? Well, the Lakers are about the same as they always are.

“They’ve won three in a row now,” Brooks said, referring to L.A.'s winning streak. “They’re a talented team and we’ll have to play well. Our guys are always excited to play them and we’re looking forward to great energy in the building.”

Mohammed has had success against the guys in purple and gold, from his days in San Antonio to the more recent and improbable run of wins his former team, the Charlotte Bobcats, put together against L.A.

“Yeah we’d played pretty well against them,” he admitted to reporters. “But it’s easy to get up for the Lakers. They’re always one of the best teams in the league so yeah, I’ll be ready for them and I’m sure these guys here will be ready for them, too.”

Robinson, who came to Oklahoma City from Boston, is excited about renewing his rivalry with the Lakers, too, but he’s even more eager to see what his future holds with the Thunder franchise.

“It’s a college atmosphere around here,” he said, “I’ve been following these guys a lot so I’m ready to get it going.”

So is Perkins, his current and former teammate with the Celtics.

“I’m excited about being here,” Perkins told reporters, “I just wish I could play against the Lakers.”

Perkins says he focuses in on something he doesn’t like about every opponent he goes up against. “I know it’s petty, but it’s just what I do. I think about that all day on game days.”

So reporters took the bait. "What is it you don’t like about (Lakers forward) Pau Gasol?"

“Everything,” replied the Thunder’s new man-in-the-middle, “Everything.”

This budding rivalry between the Thunder and the Lakers is about to come into full bloom.