The Scene At Shootaround
I’ve been MIA lately, I know. Had to focus my attention on this little nifty thing we do before every season called a special section. I got a little bogged down with that on top of the regular load. But it gives me great pleasure to say that weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and our Thunder special section will hit newsstands and your front porch or driveway this Sunday. So let’s get back into the swing of things here shall we?
TINKERING WITH THE ROTATION
Thunder coach Scott Brooks at this morning’s shootaround sounded like he is done throwing out funky lineups and wacky rotations. I expect Brooks to play what mostly will be his main rotation in tonight’s preseason finale against Sacramento. But Brooks said he and the coaching staff are still trying to figure out who fits best with each other while giving different players an opportunity to adjust to playing with different teammates.
“It’s good for our team,” Brooks said. “It’s good to build chemistry on the floor. You’re going to be put in a position where you have to play with different guys…You try to figure out what a guy does with different guys. The game is impacted by who you’re playing with.”
Rarely in the NBA will a team open the regular season against the same team it ended the preseason against. But that’s the position the Thunder and Kings are in this year. Cleveland and Boston have also managed to pull the scheduling quirk.
Brooks, however, said tonight’s game shouldn’t have any bearing on Wednesday’s season opener. Because of exhaustive scouting departments, he said, NBA teams, don’t have anything left to hide.
“We know what they’re going to run and they know what we’re going to run,” Brooks said. “We have to do a great job of executing it and using effort in our execution.”
Brooks did say Wednesday’s packages will be different than tonight’s because he plans to implement more wrinkles in the final few days of practice before the two teams meet again. He called the next five days of practice “pretty important for us.”
A FRIEND TURNED FOE
Perhaps a more significant advantage than the Kings’ ability to pick up on the Thunder’s strategy early is the presence of former Thunder forward Desmond Mason on Sacramento’s roster. Brooks expects Mason to share secrets with his new teammates. All players do once they change teams. Mike Harris informed Jeff Green of Houston players’ tendencies at the scorer’s table just before tip-off Monday.
“One of the things our coaches do when we have guys that play with other teams is (go over) their personnel’s tendencies,” Brooks admitted. “I think it’s important to listen to the players. They know, they feel it, they see it on the court. They experience it. So you always tap into their knowledge. And I’m sure Sacramento is going to be no different. Desmond knows what Kevin Durant does and how he does it. The bottom line is it takes five guys to make an offense work and it takes the same five guys to make a defense work.”
DEFENDING THE DEEP BALL
For the fourth straight day, 3-point defense was a major talking point. That will happen when a team gives up 55 percent shooting from 3 (11-for-20) one night and a 73.7 percent clip (14-for-19) the very next night.
Much of the problem can be attributed to the team’s “shell” defense, which naturally will give up 3-pointers as the Thunder attempts to protect the paint. The scheme’s strategy puts one player on the ball depending on where the ball is on the court and the other four players creating a shell behind him with all having a foot in the painted area.
“You’re stopping the ball and your four defenders are helping,” Brooks explained. “They’re looking at seeing problems and if there’s a problem they try to figure it out along with the guy that’s guarding the ball.”
There were obviously a lot of problems the past two games. Brooks estimated 10, maybe 11, of the Spurs 3s Tuesday night were the result of missed assignments and late rotations. Still, the strategy is one Brooks is willing to live with so long as better effort is given to closing out faster and rotating better.
“If I had to pick one area, yes, I’d rather guard the basket and do a better job of stopping paint points,” Brooks said. “But we have to do a better job of stopping the corner 3. That’s a 40 percent shot for NBA teams. That’s what really bothered us the last two games.”
KRSTIC EAGER FOR OPENER
Center Nenad Krstic said he “can’t wait for the season to start.
“It’s been a long summer for me and during training camp I got sick,” Krstic said. “So it’s been some ups and downs but right now I feel good and feel ready.”
Krstic, who joined the team in mid-season last year, said a full training camp in Oklahoma City has been extremely beneficial to him.
“It helps me just to get my rhythm back and adjust again to NBA basketball,” he said. “I played almost all summer in a European style of basketball. And just being with the team for a whole training camp has really helped me.”
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