SACRAMENTO, Calif. — When Chucky Atkins came to the Thunder as part of a Jan. 9 trade with Denver, the veteran point guard assumed he had waived goodbye to a bad situation with the Nuggets. Assumed the door had opened for more playing time in Oklahoma City.
Two months later, Atkins returns to Denver for the first time tonight stuck in a worse situation than before. He’s trapped in the rotation behind rookie starting point guard Russell Westbrook and backup Earl Watson while playing for the lottery-bound Thunder rather than a likely playoff team in Denver. Prior to Tuesday’s game at Sacramento, Atkins had played in only eight games with the Thunder. His 113 minutes were two fewer than he had logged in 14 games with Denver. "My situation here hasn’t been any different than it was in Denver,” Atkins said. "Only difference is you had veterans you were talking to as opposed to talking to first- and second-year guys.” And talking is what Atkins has done plenty of. Rather than sitting and sulking on the sidelines, the 34-year-old Atkins has voluntarily become somewhat of a player-coach, with obviously more coaching than playing. Atkins has taken Westbrook, the No. 4 overall pick, under his wing over the last two months, educating the 20-year-old on how to be a successful lead guard. Whether during timeouts or during game play, Atkins can be seen yakking in his teammates’ ears, sharing anything and everything he’s learned from 10 years in the league. "My thing is just to be a team guy regardless of what the situation is,” Atkins said.
Thunder at Nuggets
→When: 8 tonight →Where: Pepsi Center, Denver →TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Ch. 37) →Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM, Sirius 126 →Live blog: http://www.newsok.com/sports/thunder Three things to know
→Denver has lost three straight and five of its past six games. →The Thunder is 3-7 against divisional opponents this season and 0-2 against Denver. →Before Tuesday’s game, center Nenad Krstic was averaging 16.4 in the five games without leading scorer Kevin Durant. Probable starters