D.J. White swishes a free throw, leaps into the air and screams as if he’s drained a game-winner with :00 on the clock at the Ford Center. But this is practice. Nick Collison lumbers over and shakes White’s hand.
White, a rookie, hasn’t suited up for the Thunder all season, sidelined by jaw surgery. He still hasn’t been cleared to practice. But every player on the roster participates in coach Scott Brooks’ post-practice free-throw contest. Each day, Brooks pits one player against another in a one-on-one competition. Players receive two points for a swish, one for a made free throw that touches the rim. They alternate shots. First one to 21 wins. "It makes it really competitive,” said Desmond Mason. "You’re not just out there shooting free throws. You’re playing for your own personal record and bragging rights.” A dry erase board on the far wall of the team’s practice facility tracks the standings. Matchups change each day. Players that win their daily post-practice contest earn one "point.” Kevin Durant won the post-practice free-throw contest in December. Earl Watson, with eight wins in January, leads this month. Jeff Green said losing to Robert Swift, and one of the team’s trainers, was tough-to-swallow but said the daily competition has benefits. "It forces us to focus on our free throws,” Green said. "Free throws are big.