Last year’s trade deadline brought a seismic shift in size and attitude to the Thunder with the acquisitions of centers Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed.
Thursday’s trade deadline brought no new personnel, though there was the feel of a new acquisition with guard Thabo Sefolosha returning to the starting lineup for that night’s game at Denver.
Sefolosha had missed the last 23 games with an injured right foot. Including a start he missed earlier in the season because of the flu, the Thunder was 16-8 without Sefolosha and 16-2 with him.
OKC coach Scott Brooks said his locker room had a welcome lift with the return of the 27-year-old from Switzerland.
“There’s no question everybody’s excited to have him back,” Brooks said. “He’s one of the premier defenders in the league. He loves to defend. He can defend 1s, 2s and 3s, so we have options on who we can put him on, who has the hot hand. He just has the knack for getting after it every time down on the defensive end. That’s a great asset to have.”
Brooks said he will slowly build Sefolosha’s playing minutes.
“(We’ve) done everything we can do other than put him in a game situation,” Brooks said. “There’s always a difference between practice shape and game shape. It’s going to take some time, but that’s expected for any player that’s been out close to seven weeks.”
Sefolosha said the most difficult part of sitting out since Jan. 27 was “knowing I couldn’t help.”
The fact the Thunder went 3-3 in its last six games made Sefolosha want to come back even sooner. “It’s never fun to see your team lose … even though (overall) we’re in a great spot, in a great situation right now.”
Daequan Cook started 22 games in place of Sefolosha and will return to his role as a backup shooting guard.
“I think it’s great to have him back,” Cook said. “The last few games, the defense hasn’t been there. When you have Thabo out there, it makes a big difference for us, knowing what he’s capable of doing and how it impacts our team.”
A long-range specialist, Cook is shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range as a reserve, but shot just 28.4 percent as a starter. Cook admitted there is a comfort level to playing with the second unit.
“That’s the good thing about it,” Cook said. “We know what our job is when we come in and most of the time we get it done. We’re comfortable. Most of the time when we’re out there, we know where we’re going to be on the floor, we know each other’s spot. We know each other, period.”
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said there is a comfort level for all players, no matter if it’s first team or second team.
“Oh, all the time,” Perkins said. “You have a certain type of chemistry, guys know where each other is and what each other brings to the table.”
If the Thunder is going to win the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Final, it will do so with the same roster.
“We’re good. There’s no reason (to make a trade),” Brooks said before Thursday night’s game against the Nuggets. “(General Manager) Sam (Presti) does a great job of putting this team together. He’s the reason we didn’t have to worry about making a trade today. We have a good team. Our guys are getting better. They should continue to get better if I don’t mess things up. I was never worried. I’ve always felt we have a good enough team. I love coaching these guys and we have enough in our room to win a lot of games.”