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Oklahoma City Thunder: Time for Cole Aldrich to show he can be an NBA player

The former Kansas standout had a chance to shine at the Orlando Summer League. But he fell considerably short of expectations.
By John Rohde Published: October 8, 2012
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photo - Thunder player Cole Aldrich plays basketball with Colby Gill, 12, during a Thunder Fit clinic at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, September 19, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Thunder player Cole Aldrich plays basketball with Colby Gill, 12, during a Thunder Fit clinic at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, September 19, 2012. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Thunder center Cole Aldrich has waited two seasons for this moment.

He had busted his tail to improve his game, taking the court three hours before tipoff on every game day during the season.

He would leave the court drenched in sweat after either playing 3-on-3 pickup games against teammates or executing an array of conditioning and post drills against assistant coach Mark Bryant.

Aldrich consistently excelled whenever he was assigned to the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Developmental League. During the offseason, he picked the brain and observed the work habits of veteran forward Nick Collison when they trained together back on their college campus at Kansas.

Aldrich awaited the chance to prove himself, playing in just 44 regular-season games his first two years. That moment arrived this offseason when the Thunder did not re-sign veteran free agent center Nazr Mohammed.

Aldrich's first chance to shine came in early July at the Orlando Summer League, where instead he fell considerably short of expectations.

“He didn't play great,” coach Scott Brooks said of Aldrich, who averaged 5.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and had twice as many turnovers (eight) as blocked shots (four) at a competition where many expected him to be a dominant defensive force.

Brooks forgave Aldrich, but he didn't forget.

“I put a little bit of weight into the Summer League,” Brooks said. “I put (weight into) it at that time because that was the most important time, but not now. Now that training camp has started, that's so far behind us.

“The summer is there to get better and improve. It's what you do all summer long, it's not what you do for the two weeks or (four) games. We'll see how he plays in the exhibition season.”

The most significant opportunity of Aldrich's career comes this month with Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins still on the mend from offseason surgery to his left wrist.

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