Thunder Bringing Same Approach to Second to Last Tune-Up in Chicago
Over the next 36 or so hours, the Thunder will invest all of its energy into getting the most out of its final two preseason games, starting tonight in Chicago against the Bulls. One adjective to describe the Thunder this preseason has been consistent. Each day after practice or shootaround, players continue to take extra jump shots or run through more drills, as guard Eric Maynor explained Tuesday morning.
“We’re just trying to get out here and get better and keep the same focus that we’ve been taking into games,” Maynor said. “Instead of (just) trying to get better as individuals, we try to get better as a team.”
Maynor will get the start at point guard tonight, but Head Coach Scott Brooks said that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison and a few other players will not see action. Alongside Maynor in the starting lineup will be Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. With the team’s two leading scorers from last season on the sideline, it will be a great opportunity for players to see different looks and for Coach Brooks to use unique combinations. Regardless of who is on the floor, the attitude for the Thunder remains the same, workmanlike approach.
“With KD and Russ not playing, everybody else has to go out and do their job,” Maynor said. “No matter what coach needs us to do, we have to go out and do it tonight.”
Whether it is starters like Durant and Westbrook or training camp invitees like DeAndre Liggins or Andy Rautins, each player on the Thunder roster has brought a high level of intensity to each practice, shootaround session and game. Throughout training camp, those players have tested one another and worked extremely hard to help themselves and their teammates improve.
“We have a bunch of guys here who just came in every day,” Maynor said. “It didn’t matter who you were, what roster spot you got- you can ask KD and Russ, All Stars- everybody was going at everybody and everybody made each other better. That was our main focus coming in.”
As for Maynor himself, tonight’s start will be a nice chance to continue working into the point guard rotation with Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson. One area where the fourth year guard has been particularly effective thus far in the preseason is in the pick-and-roll. The patience, tempo and pace with which Maynor draws the defense in to then pitch to an open teammate creates good spacing and stretches the defense.
“I take what the defense gives me,” Maynor said. “I’m just playing off of instincts. Just reading defenses and taking what they give me.”
Coming off a season-ending knee injury last season, Maynor has been working back into parts of the game where he is most comfortable, specifically the pick-and- roll and with his three point shot. After committing deeply to his teammates during last season night in and night out and continuing to work back into his rhythm during training camp, Maynor is feeling good moving forward.
“I feel comfortable across the board,” Maynor said. “I’m getting back used to it, and the last two games I played, I started feeling real comfortable at that point. It’s going to take some more time for me to try to keep getting better. That’s the only thing I’m trying to do, to get better day by day.”