Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins continues to get ice treatments and go through strengthening exercises in an effort to overcome the right hip muscle strain he suffered in the first quarter of Game 4 last Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks.
Perkins remains listed as day-to-day and his availability for the second round remains uncertain.
“He's improving. He's still going through the process of getting better,” OKC coach Scott Brooks said Thursday afternoon following James Harden's ceremony to receive the NBA's Sixth Man Award. “He had a good workout session with our medical staff. We'll see how he feels tomorrow.”
If Perkins is not able to play, Brooks said veteran Nazr Mohammed will start at center in the second round.
“If it becomes necessary, we'll go with Nazr, but everybody will have to chip in,” Brooks said. “Kevin (Durant) will have to play at the 4 (position) more.
“Our fingers are crossed (about Perkins being available), but we don't know. Nazr is getting most of the looks (in practice), but Cole (Aldrich) has been working hard all year and there weren't a lot of injuries at that spot. When Cole has gone in, he's always done well.”
Though Harden had the only formally scheduled event for any Thunder players on Thursday, nearly every one of his teammates was on hand to watch him accept the NBA's Sixth Man Award in a 3 p.m. ceremony at Chesapeake Energy Arena that was carried live on NBA TV.
The only Thunder players not on hand were Perkins, who was receiving treatment, Mohammed and Thabo Sefolosha.
"It's one family. We're a family," Harden said. "These are my friends. These are my teammates. We hang out off the court more than anybody. I love them. I appreciate everything they do for me. It wasn't a surprise that they were here. I knew they were going to be here because that's the type of brotherhood we have. It's just an unbelievable thing."
During a short question-and-answer session, veteran guard Derek Fisher playfully raised his hand to ask a question, but was not handed the microphone.
Asked afterward what question he wanted to ask Harden, Fisher smiled and said, “I'm not sure exactly, but definitely something about his beard.”
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, whose team waited nine days to play the Thunder in last season's Western Conference Finals, warned it would be challenging to keep the players' attention during a long layoff. However, Brooks said that has not been the case.
“It really hasn't been that challenging because I like practice, and our guys like to practice,” Brooks said. “You can throw anything competitive out there and they really embrace it.”
Brooks said he will add “a few new wrinkles” to his team's existing plays and add “a couple new looks” to some drills during practice. “Instead of running 3-on-2 or 2-on-1, we might say, ‘On the 3-on-2, you have to make four passes,'” Brooks said.
There was no required practice Thursday, which was the team's second optional off day since Monday.
PLAYING THE NUMBERS
Brooks said his team's intrasquad scrimmages are often 4-on-4 rather than 5-on-5, but it's not because Perkins is hurt.
“We play two wings and two bigs usually,” Brooks said. “Crazy as it may sound, the position that gets eliminated is Kevin's, the small forward. We separate three point guards and three 5s (centers) and put them on separate teams. After that, it really doesn't matter who plays where. That means Kevin guards a big and Kevin is guarded by a big.”OKC HAS HOME COURT Philadelphia eliminating Chicago on Thursday night guaranteed home-court advantage for the Thunder if it reaches the NBA Finals. OKC and the Miami Heat finished with the same regular-season record (47-19) and split the season series 1-1, but the Thunder wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a better record against the opposing conference (13-5 vs.11-7). PRESEASON GAMES The Thunder announced two preseason games scheduled for October. It will host the Phoenix Suns at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Oct. 19. On Oct. 24, OKC will play the Dallas Mavericks at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. Tickets for both games go on sale May 23 and start as low as $12. Fans can visit bokcenter.com to purchase tickets to the Oct. 19 game and intrustbankarena.com for tickets to the Oct. 24 game. The Thunder will announce its entire 2012 preseason scheduled at a later date.
Brooks on whether or not he likes Harden's beard: “I do like it, other than having lunch with him. Because when you have lunch with him, he does not clean it up until after the meal is over. So whatever (he's) eating, you're seeing it. That actually happened yesterday. I even said, ‘James, come on.' He said, ‘No, I'm still eating, coach.'”