Quality Depth Key for Thunder
For the Thunder, bench players like Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich and Nazr Mohammed have embraced the motto “Always be ready” in order to stay vigilant and prepared for the moment when they might be inserted into the game. Mohammed didn’t play in Game 1 or Game 2 of the Thunder's series against Dallas, but he played 11 crucial minutes in the clinching Game 4. Head Coach Scott Brooks said that all of the players on his roster will be essential in Round 2.
“You can’t win in this league if you don’t have good players,” Brooks said. “We have good players that don’t get to play because there are only so many minutes in each game that you have to dish out. We have guys that are capable of playing good minutes for us and putting us in positions that continue to have success. We’re not going down that road yet unless we have to, but they’ve worked all year to be ready and if it happens, they will be ready. We’ll find ways to continue to have success.”
With Center Kendrick Perkins working with the training staff to heal his strained right hip, Aldrich and Mohammed continued their hard work in practice and earned praise from teammates. The Thunder had a lively and spirited practice session Tuesday that featured blue vs. white scrimmage games. After practice, Kevin Durant had kind words for the effort his teammates put in and the quality depth the team has as a whole.
“They bring it every single day,” Durant said. “We do have a lot of depth as far as bigs and wings and point guards. Everybody is coming in and working hard. Every practice for us is like a training camp and that’s the best thing about being here.”
That attitude the Thunder brings every day is admirable for a young team that is developing and growing. Getting days to practice after going through a shortened and condensed season where the Thunder played games on nearly every other day is a major benefit during this time of the season where sharpening the edges matters most.
“We’re just going to fine-tune some things and get better every day,” Durant said. “It’s a waiting period I guess until we play again. We earned a few days off I guess, but it feels good to get back in the gym.”
Being back at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center gives Brooks’ squad a chance to be with the training staff to take care of any bumps and bruises, along with a familiar environment to learn in. Whether it is offensive execution or defensive communication and rotations, the Thunder will use this week, particularly the last few days, to simply work on itself and how it can operate at the best of its ability.
After practice, guard James Harden emphasized the things the Thunder can work on despite not knowing whether it will play the Los Angeles Lakers or Denver Nuggets in Round 2.
“It was good to get back in the gym and work on things that we can control,” Harden said. “That’s what this week is for, game planning and getting our craft better offensively and defensively. Whether it’s our coverages or whoever we’re playing against next series, just watching what they do and just trying to work on what we need to improve on in the game situations.”