Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said he senses an immediate difference on both ends of the court with Nazr Mohammed in the starting lineup, even though the former Charlotte center has had limited exposure to his new teammates.
“He's a vet. He knows the game,” Westbrook said of Mohammed, who is in his 13th season. “He knows his spots on the floor and he does a good job of picking his spots. … All we expect are good things from him.”
Asked if having more of an inside presence might hinder his ability to run the team, Westbrook said, “Not at all. I'll still be able to do what I can do, get them more shots and guys will be more open.”
With Mohammed and Serge Ibaka available as defensive anchors, Westbrook admitted there could be more opportunities for steals.
“I'm definitely going to gamble a little more, but you can't do it too much,” Westbrook said. “Nazr and Serge can only protect so much.”
The Thunder is Mohammed's seventh NBA team, which had Thunder coach Scott Brooks joking that his new acquisition might inadvertently run a play from a previous franchise.
“Russell did a good job of communicating with Nazr,” Brooks said. “He didn't know everything that we were doing, but he was pretty solid. I told him, ‘When in doubt, set a screen in a way for one of our shooters.' He's smart enough to not look in a fog. I'm sure in his mind he was thinking of many different things and what call was just made, but he's a smart player. He figures it out.
“To an average spectator, or an average coach like myself, he looked like he knew exactly what he was doing.”
Though the Thunder often looked impressive during Wednesday night's 113-89 rout of the Pacers, Brooks is well-aware his team got some help.
“Indiana did not play well,” Brooks said. “They were playing good basketball up until that game. Like every team in this league, you're going to lay an egg. They laid an egg, but we did play well.
“I'm not discrediting our guys' energy, effort and execution. We played extremely well. We were moving the ball, making shots, guys coming in off the bench making shots, our defense was on cue. Everybody was on the same page.”
Easy baskets off backdoor cuts are coming more frequently for the Thunder, and it's by design. James Harden excels at the maneuver, and newcomer Nate Robinson scored his first basket with the Thunder off a backdoor cut late in the second quarter.
“We've been working on that the last six weeks or so,” Brooks said. “It's been creeping in more and more throughout the game. James has a good feel. Russell and our bigs (frontcourt players) are good passers and have a good feel on that part of the offense.”
“I'm not athletic. Don't put me in that bunch. I have average athleticism. He's an athlete. I'm decent. I'm fast enough, but not fast.” — Mohammed on the difference between him and Ibaka.