At one point late last season, P.J. Carlesimo was hesitant to evaluate the development of rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. But the Thunder coach on Wednesday praised their progress this off-season so much that he said both have a leg up going into next week's training camp. "They look very good,” Carlesimo said. "Those guys have had a real productive summer. They obviously had way above average rookie years. But they've really taken advantage of this summer. I don't think they've done a good job. They've done an exceptional job with how hard they've worked all summer, starting with summer league in Orlando.” Durant, the reigning Rookie of the Year, ranked 24th in the league in scoring at 20.3 points per game along with averages of 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Green, who joined Durant as an All-Rookie first team selection, averaged 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Both played their best at the end of the season: Durant averaging 24.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in April and Green averaging 15.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in the season's final month. "I will be shocked if they don't, not just pick up where they left off, but play at an even higher level right from the beginning,” Carlesimo said. "It will be noticeable to people that these guys are better players than when they left in April.” Durant and Green have been in Oklahoma City the last few weeks participating in voluntary workouts with most of their teammates. Carlesimo said their work ethic and consistency has stood out most. "Kevin focused on getting bigger and stronger in addition to working on his game,” Carlesimo said. "His post-up game is noticeably better just watching him play in the pick-up games. He's stronger, and he put on a little bit of weight.” Carlesimo said Green has returned a better and more consistent shooter after hitting on just 42.7 percent from the field last season, including a 27.6 percent rate from behind the 3-point line. "Across the board with (strength and conditioning coach) Dwight (Daub) all summer, they did the things you need to do to get better. And that's just a product of Dwight and the assistant coaches working with them, but way more just Kevin and Jeff not taking the summer off and not just going in and pretending like they were working. They worked at their game this summer. They took advantage of it, and it'll pay off.” •Monitoring Durant: Carlesimo said he doesn't plan to limit Durant's minutes throughout the preseason schedule in an attempt to evaluate the team's younger players and new additions. But the Thunder coach also said he doesn't want to overload Durant's playing time. "We'll walk the line with the guys that we know,” Carlesimo said. "We need to look at new people, for sure. But we also need to figure out (the right) combinations, and Kevin's going to be in any combination. "So we're certainly not going to kill him with big minutes, but we are going to make sure that he's ready to play and we are going to make sure that we can figure out who he plays best with and what combinations work best for us.”Comments
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