DALLAS — Thabo Sefolosha will miss his second straight game with a sore right foot, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said at his team's morning shoot-around Wednesday.
James Harden started in place of Sefolosha on Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers, but Brooks said he had not decided who will start at shooting guard for Wednesday's game against Dallas.
Harden, who has excelled as the team's sixth man, struggled in a secondary role starting alongside All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a 112-100 loss to the Clippers.
Although Brooks did not say that Harden struggles stemmed solely from being in the starting lineup, the coach did admit that he has concerns about tampering with Harden's role as it possibly could continue to throw off the team's chemistry. Brooks said it's a situation that the coaching staff is “looking at very closely.”
“Definitely, we've talked about it,” Brooks said. “We're trying to work through it. I don't know what we'll do tonight. But there's definitely concern because that second unit's been really good. It's been changed a few times even with Eric (Maynor) being out.”
The most likely candidate to start if Brooks decides to bring Harden off the bench is Daequan Cook, the 3-point specialist who is averaging 4.9 points on 39.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 15.4 minutes per game. Cook, however, is not considered a strong defender and he could have his hands full with Mavs guard Vince Carter.
Another option, albeit a long shot, is Lazar Hayward. It seems unlikely Brooks would opt to start Hayward considering he's only played 51 minutes all season over nine games, with most of that action coming in garbage time. Hayward, though, is a tougher defender than Cook and could supply solid offensive contributions, including adequate perimeter shooting.
But perhaps the most significant question regarding Harden is not whether he starts or comes off the bench, but how will he perform in the final game of this three-game road trip?
In nine home games, Harden has averaged 19.6 points on 56.8 percent shooting while connecting on 46.2 percent of his shots from 3-point range. In 11 road games, Harden is averaging 13.8 points on 38.7 percent shooting, while connecting on just 32 percent of his shots from 3-point range.
In his first start filling in for Sefolosha, Harden had 23 points on 7-for-13 shooting in 40 minutes. That was a home game against Portland. In the loss at L.A. on Monday, Harden scored just seven points on 2-for-10 shooting in 42 minutes.
“He didn't play well,” Brooks said. “But he could have had that game off the bench. You're not going to play well every night. I thought last game he didn't have the energy on the defensive end and James has really improved in that area. I talked to him about it. He has to come with it on that side of the floor because it helps him on the other side of it.”
Durant, who reiterated Wednesday morning that he took too many shots Monday despite scoring 36 points on 14-of-23 shooting, said it's up to everyone to get Harden more involved if he remains in the first string.
“We got to find him and let him bring the ball up sometimes. We got to run some plays for him,” Durant said. “I know it's tough for him starting with me and Russell since we anchor that first lineup. We just got to sacrifice some shots and some touches for James to get going because we're going to need him to win basketball games.”
Durant also said Cook or Hayward might be good options.
“That's something that you think about,” Durant said, “but ultimately that's coach's decision and he's going to make the best decision for our team.”