Thunder Back From Break Eager to Play Well

As the Thunder’s practice was ending in Philadelphia on Tuesday, guard Daequan Cook looked in awe at Kendrick Perkins and remarked that he saw a new man from the one he had been with last Thursday night. The All-Star Weekend signifies a break in the schedule, but to Perkins it means one thing.

“It’s the second half of the season, man, it’s time to go to work,” Perkins fired back to Cook, who both shared a laugh.

It seemed like a positive, upbeat practice that was filled with energy, which is no surprise considering most of the players had a few days off to rest their bodies, while Head Coach Scott Brooks and his staff, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook all found success during All-Star Weekend in Orlando.

“The guys came back in good spirits,” Brooks said. “Our organization had a great All-Star Weekend with Kevin winning the MVP and Russell playing extremely well, and we won the game. So all the way around, it was great for our team. The focus now is to get back into the second part of the season and keep getting better, keep working on the things that we set out to do.”

Forward Nick Collison, who used the time off to heal up an injured quad, was pleased to get back to the court and continue to gel on offense and defense with the rest of the squad. The team as a whole had four days away from the basketball court, but during this whirlwind season, Collison and the Thunder never let its guard down.

“It’s always good to see everybody again,” Collison said. “It’s back to work, the All-Star break, it’s something that everybody looks forward to, but it always goes so fast. It seems like we’re right back here. It gave everybody a couple days to recharge their batteries and be ready for the second half of the season.”

In fact, those batteries seemed at full power as the players exited the 76ers practice facility one night before their matchup at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday night. It marks the first game of a three-game East Coast road trip for the Thunder before it heads home for five straight games at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Collison noted that these road games, particularly starting with Philadelphia, will be a good test for the Thunder to continue to improve.

“Once we get to the arena, we’ll get right back into what we were doing before,” Collison said. “We need to get better passing the ball and executing half court. Defensively we have to be more consistent and rebound the ball defensively. Those are always the things we need to work on.”

With a team that is focused and locked in on the upcoming task and takes each game as it comes, Brooks and his staff spent some of the All-Star break wishing that they could be with not just Durant and Westbrook, but all of their players. Serge Ibaka showed up to Orlando for All-Star Weekend, and was sitting courtside during Durant’s 3-point shooting contest second place finish, but it wasn’t quite the same as having the whole Thunder roster assembled. Cleared of his separation anxiety, Brooks took the time to praise the men in his locker room now that he had the chance to re-assemble the squad.

“It’s nice, I missed our guys,” Brooks said. “You go through a season and you see them every day. Very rarely do you see a day go by that you don’t see them. All of our coaches talked about this at the All-Star game, that we couldn’t wait to see our guys again. Fortunately I have a group that I love to coach. I love to see them work, I love to see them be developed. We’re hand in hand in this, we’re a partnership in developing, a partnership in getting better, and there’s nothing better you can ask for as a coach.”