After missing three games with a quad contusion, forward Nick Collison will return to the lineup Wednesday against Philadelphia.
Collison practiced Tuesday afternoon and said he felt much better and doesn't anticipate the injury being a problem anymore. Collison also said he was sidelined as much for precautionary reasons as he was because of the injury itself.
“It was a quad contusion, but it was in a bad place. It was right by my knee, right where the quad and knee come together,” Collison said. “So I had a lot of swelling. That's a really important muscle to keep your knee stable. So we want to make sure that that muscle is firing correctly because I don't want to put my knee at risk.
“I had knee issues the last couple of years, and it was right near where I had my stress reaction last year. I wanted to really give it time, and luckily we went into the All-Star break to give me some extra days.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he will play Collison his customary amount of minutes, which generally is in the low- to mid-20s.
“It's great having him back, because he does so many little things for us to help us win games,” Brooks said. “The screens that he sets, the rebounds, the defense, the charges, the passing, him and James' chemistry, he's such a good player that he understands his role and he wants to always improve that role. The team is excited to have him back because he's a big part of our success.”
TALKIN' ‘BOUT PRACTICE
Following a three-day break for All-Star Weekend, the Thunder reconvened in Philadelphia and had a late afternoon practice on Tuesday. It was a short session but sounded spirited as several voices boomed beyond the walls of the Sixers practice facility.
The team's goals in the second half of the season remain the same.
“We had a good weekend off, and guys came back in good spirits,” Brooks said. “The focus now is to get back into the second part of the season and keep getting better and keep working on the things we set out to do at the start of the season, which is defending much better and passing the ball much better. Now we have to throw in taking care of the basketball.”
Collison said he doubts the layoff was long enough to destroy the momentum the Thunder had built. Before the break, the Thunder had won five straight games, nine of its last 11 and 11 of its past 14.
“We'll be fine,” Collison said. “Once we get to the arena, we'll get right back into doing what we were doing before.
“We're more concerned with the guys, Kevin (Durant) and Russell (Westbrook), who were busy over the break and that they're not fatigued. But they don't seem like it. And those guys are still young. It seems like they never get tired, so I think we'll be good.”
TOUGH THREE-GAME STRETCH
The Thunder is opening a three-game road trip on Wednesday against the Sixers. After playing Philadelphia, the Thunder will travel to Orlando for a Thursday night TNT game before wrapping up the trip at Atlanta on Saturday.
All three teams are above .500 and currently would qualify for the postseason as the 4th, 5th and 6th seeds (in the same order as the schedule) in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers, Magic and Hawks also are a combined 35-17 in their home arenas.
The Thunder, however, is 6-1 against the East.
“They're all very tough places to play … and they all have good records,” Brooks said. “They're playing good basketball. It's going to be tough. But we know what's at stake. We have to keep moving forward as a team. And we've always found ways to put ourselves in a position to win. We've always done that. But this road trip is going to test us.”
IBAKA WANTS IN 2013 DUNK CONTEST
Serge Ibaka, who many thought was robbed in last year's dunk contest, didn't seem overly impressed with what he saw in this year's edition over the weekend.
“It was OK,” said Ibaka, who attended All-Star Weekend in Orlando. “That's what it is.”
Ibaka voiced his interest in joining this year's field but did not get invited. He's already making it known that he wants in next year's competition.
“I would like to participate next year,” he said. “I hope the NBA will let me like last year.”
BROOKS MEETS LIL WAYNE
In thinking back on his first All-Star coaching experience, Brooks couldn't single out one experience that he enjoyed most.
“There were so many,” Brooks said. “Just meeting all the players and seeing our guys being a part of it. From a distance, just observing the way our guys interacted with all the other stars was a treat.”
A picture that documented one of Brooks' more random experiences has surfaced on the Internet. It's of the Thunder's coach standing shoulder to shoulder with Grammy Award winning rapper Lil' Wayne.
“That's my guy, man,” Brooks joked.
Brooks said he hadn't previously met Lil' Wayne but said they “talked for a few minutes” before tip-off Sunday.
“He wanted to know if I would host one of his parties in Miami. I declined, respectfully. I said maybe in the summertime,” Brooks said.
Brooks obviously was joking. After turning serious, Brooks said the moment captured was actually intended for his son.
“I went up to him,” Brooks said of Lil' Wayne. “I wanted him to take a picture with my son. I wanted to really have some fun with my son, but he didn't want any part of it. He's kind of laid back and shy. He threw me out there, so I was stuck with Lil' Wayne.”
When asked how many Lil' Wayne songs he knew, Brooks had a surprising answer.
“I know a lot of them,” he said. “‘How to Love' was a recent one. That's probably the best one.”
Brooks on All-Star Weekend: “Our organization had a great All-Star Weekend. Kevin won the MVP, Russell played extremely well and we won the game. So all the way around, it was great for our team.”