Thunder to Carry Over Work into Preseason Game vs. Suns

TULSA - After practice or shootaround every day, Cole Aldrich and the Thunder bigs push each other around on the block while guards like Russell Westbrook take elbow jumper after elbow jumper.

It’s all a part of the Thunder’s daily improvement process, by which players take it upon themselves to get in extra reps, work with the coaching staff and challenge one another to get better. After an exciting yet productive Blue and White Scrimmage last night, the Thunder took to the floor at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Friday morning to gear up for its fourth preseason game of 2012-13, against the Phoenix Suns. Heading into the contest, Aldrich and his teammates will try to execute the same strategies that are staples of the Thunder game plan.

“Just keep on moving the ball and defend,” Aldrich said. “We’re doing a better job of rebounding the ball. (We’re) just (working on) the little things that are going to make a huge difference once the season comes along.”

Over the last three weeks since Training Camp began, the Thunder has displayed the spectrum of on-court abilities and while the outcome hasn’t always been perfect, the players’ effort has been at the highest of levels. Head Coach Scott Brooks always ensures that his team focuses in on the defensive side of the ball, working to get stops with toughness, using concentration to grab rebounds then the team’s athleticism to get out and run.

As the preseason builds closer to Nov. 1st when the regular season begins, Brooks wants to see his team continue to develop and form its identity.

“Sometimes things look a little better than other nights, but it’s always move the ball offensively, share the ball,” Brooks said. “Let’s get everybody feeling good about playing the game with each other. Defensively just continue to play with toughness, continue to play with force, play every possession out and we have to do a better job of really focusing on finishing out a possession with a rebound. Tonight’s game is another step hopefully in the right direction to get ready for our first game in San Antonio.”

As a result of the general continuity on the team, including the fact that 12 players from last year’s squad return to the Thunder, Aldrich says he and his teammates keep getting more and more comfortable with one another. That has been displayed on the offensive end with better passing on pocket passes from big-to-big and kick-out passes to the wing.

Tonight, going against Suns center Marcin Gortat, the Thunder post players will be challenged on the defensive end, which will be a great opportunity to utilize a team defensive effort to stop a skilled, capable big man.

“He’s obviously a big-time rebounder,” Aldrich said. “He runs the floor, sets screens, he’s a big time roller too. He’s a big time finisher and it’s a thing that our defense is going to get challenged with. We have to make sure the wing guys are inside hitting the roller and that we’re up on pick-and-rolls.”

Another intriguing aspect about tonight’s matchup is that the Thunder will return to the BOK Center to play in front of a passionate crowd of fans. One night after filling up Bixby’s SpiritBank Event Center for the Blue and White Scrimmage, the new home of the Thunder’s affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, loyal fans in the region will be flocking to the BOK Center to see the team play. Aldrich, once a member of the 66ers himself, is familiar with the support the Thunder receives in Tulsa, and is excited to see 66ers and Thunder fans again tonight.

“We have a bunch of great fans up here,” Aldrich said. “Maybe they don’t get the opportunity to watch in person and make the drive to Oklahoma City, but it’s an opportunity for a lot of people in this area to come out and watch us in person and just see us work hard.”