Thabo Sefolosha will be the first Thunder player to defend former teammate James Harden when the Houston Rockets visit Chesapeake Energy Arena at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Russell Westbrook also will get his shot at defending Harden, as will Kevin Durant.
There will be plenty of intrigue when new OKC sixth man Kevin Martin defends the man for whom he was traded.
If Thunder center Kendrick Perkins is feeling particularly “perky,” he might start defending Harden at midcourt when he's dribbling and try to make him change directions a few times.
These OKC players will not defend Harden simultaneously, of course, though they might be tempted should the bearded one go off on another one of his scoring spurts.
When Harden and Houston make their lone visit to The Peake this season, the Thunder's defensive approach will be the same as it is for all great scorers.
All five defenders must get involved. No one single-handedly defends a good player in the NBA, and at 25.2 points per game, Harden certainly qualifies as better than good.
Sefolosha is one of the league's premier perimeter defenders, but he won't go it alone against Harden.
Westbrook is arguably the NBA's most athletic player, but he'll also require some help defending Harden.
When Sefolosha, Westbrook, Durant, et al, were teammates, Thunder coach Scott Brooks often would switch defensive assignments during practice, and that's how they're preparing for Harden.
“It's the same practice we do all the time on stopping all the great players,” said Brooks, who wants Harden to “see bodies and bodies” throughout the game.
“But that's our plan with everybody,” Brooks said. “We're not putting a special ‘Harden defense' in. We know what he does. We know who he is, what he's done. The crazy thing is good players seem to know how to get their points and get their game going.”
Few guards run the pick-and-roll as well as Harden, who often victimizes not only the pickee, but also the defender of the picker.
“It's hard to stop him,” Brooks said. “He has the ability to attack, shoot 3s and he gets to the free-throw line.”
Martin has defended Harden on occasion the previous three seasons while playing for Sacramento and Houston.
“Just make him take tough shots,” Martin said. “Like any good player in the league, you just try to make him work for 48 minutes and see what happens.”
Westbrook noted they will face a different Harden on Wednesday than they faced at practice as teammates.
“I know it's different,” Westbrook said. “He has a green light over there (in Houston). He plays freely and he's able to do basically what he wants. We just need to do a good job of team defense and we'll be all right.”