Thunder Shows Work Ethic in Annual Blue and White Scrimmage

THE SCENE: The screams started at 6:10 p.m., the precise moment students at Putnam City West High School got their first glimpse of the Thunder players walking through the doors and into the gymnasium.

One by one the Thunder players entered the gym and immediately made contact with the students watching the girls varsity game between Putnam City West and its rival, Putnam City North.

As the Thunder players headed to the other end of the gym and toward the locker room, the game resumed. Twenty minutes the later, the cheers erupted again, when the Thunder players, wearing the same Thunder blue Training Camp T-shirts as those handed out to the crowd, hit the court for warm-ups before taking part in the annual Blue & White Scrimmage.

The White team features Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha, Cole Aldrich, Nazr Mohammed, Royal Ivey and Ryan Reid. On the Blue: Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Eric Maynor, Daequan Cook, Byron Mullens, Lazar Hayward and Anthony Goods.

The opening drills give fans a first-hand look at the level of detail Head Coach Scott Brooks and his staff demand from the players. Brooks is coaching throughout the warm-up period, using his hands and words to instruct.

Meantime, it clearly is a Thunder “game” environment with all the fan-familiar staples in place: the Thunder Girls, Rumble the Bison, Thunder Drummers, Storm Chasers and DJ Boom. Signs are held up throughout the gym and the chant “Let’s Go Thunder” erupts with little warning.

As the warm-up period winds down, Westbrook whips the crowd into a collective roar with a two-handed reverse dunk.

Let’s do this! The scrimmage, which will consist of three periods, is about to begin.

BEFORE WE BEGIN: Brooks presents Putnam City West with a framed Thunder road jersey signed by every player. The jersey is number 11 to signify the year and features the words “PC West” across the back.

“First and foremost, we want to thank PC West for allowing us to invade their territory and allow us to play,” Brooks said following the scrimmage. “It reminds all of us, the players and the coaches, of our days playing at the high school level. It was great. … Our players really enjoyed it.”

A CLOSER LOOK: Since camp opened, Brooks and the players have talked about the need to “share the ball” better at the offensive end. The point of emphasis was obvious throughout the scrimmage. There were few one-on-one plays and multiple possessions where the ball touched at least three sets of hands.

Case in point: In the second quarter, the White creates a turnover on the defensive and breaks out, with Thabo Sefolosha handling the ball. Sefolosha finds Westbrook charging downcourt near the top of the key and Westbrook then pulls up for what appear to be a jumper while drawing the defender to him. Only instead of releasing the shot, Westbrook dishes to an open teammate on the wing. Though the shot didn’t fall, it is the kind of ball movement Brooks wants to see this season.

“We are really trying to move the ball and we did,” Brooks said. “We just had too many turnovers.”

THE SCRIMMAGE, PART I: The first basket of the scrimmage will not surprise Thunder fans: Durant drains a 3 on a crisp pass from Westbrook. … Perkins showed his improved quickness when he intercepted a pass near the top of the key and drove nearly three-quarters of the court for a basket. … Westbrook feeds Aldrich with a beautiful bounce pass from behind the 3-point line . Aldrich catches the ball in stride and makes the basket. … No easy bucket: Sefolosha comes up with a steal and drives toward the basket, but Ibaka charges down court to challenge the shot and sends Thabo to the floor. Sefolosha converts both free throws for 24-14 White lead.

PART II: Mullens nails a step-back jumper for the first field goal of quarter. … Ibaka catches a pass from Harden and converts a nice breakout off a defensive turnover. Brooks has stressed throughout camp the importance of converting defensive turnovers. … Welcome to the Thunder, Lazar: Hayward, acquired in a trade with Minnesota earlier this week, drains a corner 3 to pull the Blue team within 27-21. … Aldrich receives a no-look pass from Westbrook, goes up strong for the basket and is fouled. Aldrich converts the free throw and pushes the White lead to 37-22.

PART III: Durant and Westbrook trade their white jerseys for the blue, with Harden and Maynor going white. … Ibaka throws down a vicious one-handed dunk to end a possession that saw the ball touch three different sets of hands. … Ibaka catches an alley-oop pass from Durant and throws it down, bringing the fans to their feet. … Westbrook ends the scrimmage with a breakaway dunk. Final score: White 51, Blue 37.

UP NEXT: The Thunder will return to the practice court at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center on Saturday before heading off to Dallas for a preseason game against the Mavericks on Sunday. Game time is 6:30 p.m. and will be carried live on WWLS The Sports Animal.