On a bright and early Saturday morning, we got our first look at the Oklahoma City Thunder team that we’ll see for at least the first month of the regular season.
In its preseason debut, the Thunder revealed plenty of good things but also showed areas in which a lot of work needs to be done as the team moves on from its 95-82 win over Turkish club Fenerbahce Ulker.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad debut given the Thunder’s circumstances of playing without starting point guard Russell Westbrook. Here are the things that stood out most over in Istanbul.
PATIENCE REQUIRED: It’s clear that the starting unit is still finding its way without Westbrook, even after nine playoff games without him. Several times Saturday, it seemed no one in the first five not named Kevin Durant seemed sure of what to do. It resulted in a slow start and a 28-20 deficit after the opening period. Durant after the game even credited the team’s bench for coming in and setting the tone. You can only hope these slow starts don’t become commonplace. Given time, the Thunder should get it figured out.
BALANCE NEEDED: Durant and Reggie Jackson can’t do it all on the offensive end for the starters. At halftime, that duo had combined for 29 points on 12 of 23 shooting. The other three starters, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins had mustered just seven points on 2-for-10 shooting. Efforts like that, regardless of whether that trio supplies stout defense and rebounding like they did Saturday, likely won’t be enough to overcome good teams in the regular season.
REGGIE JACKSON: It’s just one preseason game, but he absolutely has to be more assertive attacking on offense. Jackson scored just nine points (one more than Sefolosha and Derek Fisher each contributed) and took only six shots. Jackson’s passing (game-high five assists) was encouraging and will be beneficial as the season goes on. But when the Thunder’s offense is stuck in neutral, Jackson is one of only a few players remaining on this active roster who can provide a spark. With that said, Jackson was rock solid running the team and not forcing the action. The key is to figure out how splice in some aggressiveness while maintaining that control.
JEREMY LAMB: He didn’t show much on offense until the second half, a strange occurrence seeing as how that end of the floor is where he’s best. Where Lamb actually raised some eyebrows was on defense, the end that is said to be his weakest. ON a few sequences, Fenerbahce tried to take advantage of Lamb’s size by going to the bigger, bulkier Bojan Bogdanovic (property of the Brooklyn Nets) in the post. But on one possession Lamb held his own as Bogdanovic attempted to back him down. Lamb ultimately contested Bogdanovic’s baseline turnaround jumper and forced a miss. Lamb finished with five rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals to go with nine points and four assists.
STEVEN ADAMS: If you tuned in to summer league you saw more of the same from Adams on Saturday. Simply solid. He moves really well and finishes with nice touch around the basket. The rookie center has good awareness on defense for such an inexperienced player, often leaving the post to help on the perimeter before retreating to his man before he becomes a threat. Adams started for Kendrick Perkins (dislocated left ring finger) at the start of the second half and finished with seven points and six rebounds in only 15 minutes. The bad news is he also committed five fouls and three turnovers in that time.
PERRY JONES III: How quickly the narrative has changed. A year ago he was widely considered the steal of the 2012 draft. Today, his time appears to be running out. Jones didn’t even get on the floor in the first half, and when he did in the final 24 minutes he did little to show he belongs there. He finished with two points, three rebounds, one assist, two fouls and one turnover in 18 minutes. It was by far the most disappointing performance.
DNP’S-CD: It stands for “Did not play: Coach’s decision.” The list included Daniel Orton, Ryan Gomes and Rodney McGruder. Expect those three, particularly Orton and Gomes, to be rotated in as the games continue.
TIP-INS: Andre Roberson added to his reputation as a ferocious rebounder. He grabbed six boards in 12 minutes. He wasn’t in the game 30 seconds before he got his paws on the first ricochet off the rim…Sefolosha went 0-for-3 from 3-point range. After back-to-back seasons above 40 percent from that distance, you can only hope he doesn’t revert to the streaky shooter he was prior to the 2011-12 season…Lamb played a game-high 31 minutes and finished with a game-high plus-18…OKC struggled at the 3-point line on both ends. The Thunder missed 12 of its 14 attempts and gave up 10 on 28 Fenerbahce attempts.