Thunder Wants to Take Care of Home Court
When Thunder players take the court at Chesapeake Energy Arena, they know exactly what to expect from the crowd. In turn, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ squad hopes to give Thunder fans a consistent level of performance each night.
Tonight’s match-up against the Charlotte Bobcats marks the first home preseason game of the 2012-13 season and an opportunity for every Thunder player to be re-united with one of, if not the best home environments in the NBA. Veterans like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and rookies like Perry Jones are equally pumped up to see loyal Thunder fans fill the seats at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight.
“We’re excited, it’s a great opportunity for us to play in front of our home fans,” Brooks said. “It’s always a great building. Guys are excited. We want to get better, we want to work on the things that we put in the last few days of practice. I anticipate our guys playing well.”
The Thunder’s advantage at home last season was distinct, considering the team went 26-7 at home, tied for third best in the NBA. While the team was also 21-12 on the road, also third best in the league, there were some major ways the Thunder stepped up its game thanks to the comfort of being in their home gym. Last year Brooks’ squad shot a blistering 49.2 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from three-point land at home, while also averaging 20.1 assists and 105.0 points per game.
In order to have a successful year, the Thunder wants to replicate, and improve upon that high level of play in Oklahoma City.
“It’s always important if you want to have a good season, you have to win your home games,” Brooks said. “We have a great building and we want to continue to take advantage of our home crowd. It always starts off with home. It’s tough to win on the road, we’ve been a pretty good road team but you have to take care of your home.”
While the games don’t officially count in the standings until November 1st, the Thunder will take preseason opportunities to compete against true opponents very seriously. Tonight starters like Durant and Westbrook will likely play between 25-28 minutes, but there will also be plenty of opportunities for the coaching staff to work with new players, different lineups and various rotations. All of these choices will be utilized to help the Thunder make important personnel decisions before the start of the season.
“We still have some time, we’re still looking at guys and are still tinkering with the lineups and rotations,” Brooks said. “I anticipate some of our starters playing more than they played in the past two games. I don’t think fourth quarter minutes, but maybe high 20’s.”
As for the Bobcats, there is a new man at the helm of the team, Head Coach Mike Dunlap. Brooks had praise for his opposing coach today after shoot-around, and shared an anecdote about how the two have crossed paths in the world of coaching. When Brooks was an assistant with the Denver Nuggets from 2003-2006, Dunlap was the head coach of Metro State University, also located in Denver. When Brooks left Denver to become an assistant with the Sacramento Kings, Dunlap took his vacant spot in Denver. During that overlap in Denver, Brooks became aware of Dunlap’s reputation as a coach.
“He’s really into executing the offense and defense very well,” Brooks said. “His practices are really organized and very structured. He’s always prepared.”
Another insight Brooks has into Dunlap’s coaching mind has been gleaned from preseason film study. The Thunder’s fifth-year head coach said his team will expect to see both a half-court and full-court trap from the Bobcats tonight. Most of all, however, tonight’s game for the Thunder will be a chance to play in front of the home fans, work on improving itself and developing its players in the best way possible.
“We’re just looking for execution and defensive toughness and rebounding the basketball and transition scores,” Brooks said. “We’re just focusing on all the things we do as a team.”