Thunder power forward Nick Collison practiced Thursday with teammates for the first time this season. However, forward Jeff Green still has not practiced or played since spraining his left ankle last Saturday and is not expected to play in Friday night's 8:30 contest against Portland at Oklahoma City Arena.
Collison has been doing individual work with an assistant coach all week, but was limited to non-contact drills when practicing alongside teammates. "It's good to be back with the guys," said the 30-year-old Collison, who had off-season surgery on his right knee.
Collison said he still has no exact timetable for his return, but this week proves his ailing left leg has improved. Another MRI has been scheduled and Collison said he will continue to add to his workload, but with caution.
â€œIt's tough watching, but we've waited this long (to return),â€ Collison said. â€œYou would hate to do something too soon now and screw it all up. We've invested a lot of time to try and do it right, so we'll continue with that.â€
Thunder backup guard James Harden is gradually breaking out of an early shooting slump.
After starting out 4 for 23 from the field, Harden had made 8 of his last 14 shots and 3 of 7 from 3-point range. Wednesday night against Philadelphia included a high-flying, ally-oop dunk off a feed from Russell Westbrook.
Asked if a 3-pointer or a dunk brings him greater satisfaction, Harden said: â€œEither-or. Definitely a 3 can get the crowd hyped and everything, but obviously a dunk can do the same. It's an energy thing.â€
Thunder coach Scott Brooks has maintained confidence in Harden, playing him an average of 21.8 minutes per game despite the struggles.
â€œWhen you hit shots, you feel better about yourself, about your game, about what you do to help your team win,â€ Brooks said. â€œWith James, he has to take shots when he's open. He has to continue to work on his defense and he has to be able to make plays when he has the ball. He has to improve like a lot of our guys have to improve.â€
Philly forward Andres Nocioni was fined $25,000 for throwing his mouthpiece into the stands at Oklahoma City Arena with 2:08 left in the first quarter of the Thunder's 109-103 victory.
A fan roughly 10 rows up along the baseline caught the mouthpiece in mid-air and a Sixers staffer retrieved it.
The Thunder handily leads the league in free-throw shooting at 87.3 percent, but shot an uncharacteristically low 77.6 percent from the line during the preseason.
Things got so bleak, Brooks playfully fired himself as the team's free-throw coach. "I don't know what was happening in the preseason, but I do know we weren't very good," Brooks said.
A career 88.4-percent free-throw shooter, All-Star Kevin Durant misfired at 75.0 percent in exhibition games. Now the team's free-throw percentage is nearly 10 percent higher and Durant is at 91.4 percent.
â€œI don't know what was going on,â€ Durant said. â€œYou get to the line, and you get a little arrogant up there. You just shoot it, you look away and it comes out.â€