Keeping one eye on Tulsa
While Thunder coach Scott Brooks is busy tending to an 18-4 team that’s riding a nine-game winning streak, he is still mindful of his five roster members who have spent significant time with the Tulsa 66ers, the franchise’s Developmental League team.
Brooks has stuck to a nine-man rotation this season, which hasn’t left many minutes for reserves Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, DeAndre Liggins or Daniel Orton – all of whom have seen action with the 66ers. The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement allows unlimited D-League assignments for players in their first three seasons. Assignments previously were available only to players in their first or second NBA seasons with a limit of three assignments per season.
Jackson, who had 20 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his one Tulsa appearance, returned to the Thunder and played a key role in the team’s 92-88 comeback victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Lamb is among the D-League scoring leaders at 22.2 points per game and also is averaging 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 blocks. Liggins had a triple-double in the 66ers’ season opener and is averaging 11.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.7 steals. Orton is averaging 11.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Jones, nursing a sprained left ankle and rehabbing in OKC, is averaging 11.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 25.0 minutes per game.
Brooks said he makes a point to keep close tabs on his D-Leaguers. “Absolutely,” Brooks said. “We follow them and it’s so easy to watch their games on YouTube. We have all their games on our server the next morning to watch it and break down all of our guys’ minutes. It’s a great part of our organization to have Tulsa.”
Brooks attended the 66ers’ home game against Sioux Falls at 11 a.m. on Dec. 5, roughly nine hours after returning from a road victory against the Brooklyn Nets. “It’s great that’s it’s only an hour and 15 minutes away,” Brooks said. “We’re able to see them live or watch the games on video.”
Don’t expect Brooks’ nine-man rotation to change anytime soon, but the D-Leaguers will be prepared to step in case somebody starts struggling or suffers an injury. “It’s tough. We’re a good team. It’s tough to break in to our rotation, but it gives our players an opportunity to go up there and play,” Brooks said. “If someone gets hurt or plays really bad and we have to mix things up – we’ve been really consistent, knock on wood. We’ve been fortunate not to have a lot of injuries in the past four or five years, but if it does happen, guys are going to be ready to play because you can only do so much before practice and after practice, or before games (with the Thunder). It gives them game-time experience and I think they’ve been great. Jeremy came back and had a great practice (Tuesday), so we’ve seen improvement in the two or three weeks he’s been over there (in Tulsa).”
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