Thunder Preparing for Knicks After Hard-Earned Day Off

As practice came to a close at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, point guards Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson joked with teammates and knocked down a few extra jump shots. In general, there was a true energy among the Thunder players. In a word, the team looked refreshed.

It was an eager group that showed no signs of completing a five-games-in-six-nights stretch, which the Thunder passed with flying colors. After wrapping up a two-game road trip to Memphis and New Orleans, the 10-2 Thunder had a day off Thursday before getting back on the practice court Friday.

“It was a very nice and well-deserved day off,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said of the free day on Thursday. “I think the guys did a good job of using it. ... There were a lot of games in six nights. Five (games) in six nights. It was a day off that they deserved and I’m happy they utilized it.”

As quickly as the past week must have flown by for Brooks’ crew, their focus returned to continuing to improve on the court. According to Brooks, the Thunder will keep working on aspects of the game that make a team difficult to score against and hard to stop on the offensive end. From defensive rotations to offensive spacing to ball movement and body movement, Brooks explained that this Thunder team has room to grow if it hopes to reach its ultimate goals.

“We have to get better,” Brooks said. “Every coach wants to search for that 48 minutes of good basketball. We have ways to get better. We still have to touch up on things defensively and even on the things that we do well, we still want to continue to address those areas, because we want to keep doing them well. Offensively, just keep moving the ball. I thought we did a good job in getting better and practice was another good day in that area.”

The Thunder is one of only four teams to have played 12 games in this young season, and after completing its back-to-back-to-back in addition to four additional back-to-back sets, it was a welcome sight for Thunder players like guard Daequan Cook to see two blank days on the calendar to regroup and get back into a normal NBA schedule. The Thunder hosts the New York Knicks on Saturday night before hitting the road again to play at Boston on Monday and at Washington on Wednesday. That type of schedule with days in between will help the Thunder get back into a routine, which is what Cook said is one of the most important aspects of being comfortable throughout the course of a season.

“The rhythm of the game, the rhythm of the season,” Cook emphasized when asked how important it is to get days off. “Knowing when we’re going to play, when we’re going to have days off. We look forward to just being relaxed and that’s important as a player, knowing how to set your schedule, keep your body right and just stay in shape for each game.”

Cook, 24, has averaged 4.9 points per game thus far this season, shooting 39 percent from 3-point range, along with 2.4 rebounds per game. He’s been an effective and important cog in the Thunder’s second unit, and has often seen crunch-time minutes in the fourth quarter. The Thunder has been able to close out games this season, which has helped it get off to a solid start.

“We feel pretty good,” Cook said. “It just shows how much we worked just this whole summer. It’s looking real good for us, but we know there’s no stopping there. We still have 50-some games left, but it’s a great start.”

Brooks, who referenced a section of the schedule before the All-Star break that features four home games in five nights, echoed Cook’s sentiment. The Thunder is in perpetual self-improvement mode, and that couldn’t be any truer now after getting a day off to reset, re-organize and gear back up for its important matchup on Saturday.

“We are not a finished product, our guys aren’t complete either,” Brooks said. “We have to work and figure out ways to improve the things we’ve done well and maybe get better in those areas, not just the areas we need to improve on.”