It was a pretty standard Friday morning at the team’s practice facility, as Thunder coach Scott Brooks used the first part of today’s two-a-day as a shootaround-type session before tonight’s full-contact portion in the open scrimmage at Yukon High School. And as Brooks said Thursday, Tonight’s scrimmage will be all business. Doors open at 5 p.m. Practice begins at 5:30.
James Harden and Daequan Cook both will be held out of tonight’s scrimmage after bumping heads Thursday. Everyone else should be a go. A few things to keep an eye on tonight.
1) Cole Aldrich’s defense — The rookie center from Kansas is expected to make his biggest impact on the defensive end so you’ll want to pay attention to how much of a force he is in the paint. Can he handle the speed of the game? Is he blocking and altering shots. Are his hands soft or stones when pulling down rebounds? Can he hold his position down low and provide resistance at the rim? These are all questions to keep in mind as you watch Aldrich.
2) Mo Peterson’s shooting touch — When his number is called, tonight or anytime this season, his job will be to knock down shots when the ball is swung his way. The overall team’s 3-point shooting will be a developing story line this season, but with Harden and Cook out Peterson is the team’s only other dead-eye 3-point shooter outside of Durant. It’ll be interesting to see whether Peterson has gotten on one accord with his new teammates yet.
3) Russell Westbrook’s quickness — Watch how Westbrook blows by his defenders and gets to the rim with ease and you’ll see the foundation of what could turn him into an All-Star this season. He is an absolute blur. And his quickness and athleticism, amazingly, is more impressive this year that it was last season. His two years of experience in the league, as well as growing confidence and Team USA stint, has turned him into a more dominant player. Fans should enjoy tonight’s free tasting of his talents.4) Jeff Green’s aggressiveness — The fourth-year forward promised to be more assertive than ever before this year. It’s a tall order since he is such a great complementary player who brings his greatest contributions as a connector. Going from glue guy to attack mode won’t be easy, but this will be our first shot to see how he does.
5) Elijah Millsap’s toughness — An undrafted rookie out of UAB, Millsap has emerged as a promising young player in camp. I’ll have a story in Saturday’s paper on his uphill battle to make the team. But as a preview, he talked today about his brief altercation with James Harden, how he’s already defended four positions in camp and the lessons he learned from his older brother, Utah’s Paul Millsap. While there are certainly higher profile players you’ll want to see tonight, Millsap appears to be one of those hard-nosed, gritty types that every championship team has.
- We spoke to Jerome Dyson after practice today. He said his biggest strength as a player is on the defensive end. He also talked about playing AAU ball with Kevin Durant back in the D.C. area for the D.C. Blue Devils. When asked about his speed, Dyson said Westbrook is probably the only player who can top his quickness.
- Players signed some paraphernalia as they walked off the practice court today. One item was a white Thunder jersey with the No. 1 and “Yukon” on the back. Looks like the team is going to show its appreciate to the school and the community in some way tonight. Should be a good show.