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Cole Aldrich very much remains in OKC's plans

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: July 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm •  Published: July 17, 2011

Aldrich is spending the majority of his time at his alma mater in Lawrence, Kan. He's attempting to improve his quickness and reaction skills, his hand-eye coordination and his rebounding and hustle.

One of the biggest areas of improvement Aldrich must focus on is defending the pick-and-roll. In addition to adjusting to the speed of the NBA game, Aldrich has to develop his footwork so that he isn't exploited regularly when his opportunity does come knocking. But he sensed improvement as last season wore on.

“I could see myself getting much better,” said Aldrich, crediting a few of last year's punishing practice sessions. “It's not easy having Russell (Westbrook) coming off the pick-and-roll, but if you can do it against him then against other guys, it's going to be a little bit easier.”

Aldrich's teammates, some of them speaking from experience, say all the work will soon pay off.

“I love his mentality,” said forward Serge Ibaka. “I think I had the same mentality my first year when I was not playing. I kept working and waited my turn. If he keeps that mentality, he can do a lot of stuff in this league.”

It's not out of the question, though, that Aldrich spends a healthy amount of time in Tulsa again next season. Last year, Aldrich averaged 29.3 minutes over 21 games with the NBA D-League's 66ers. He averaged 10.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.62 blocks while shooting 54.4 percent from the field. As a second-year player, Aldrich will again be eligible for assignment to the D-League up to three times next year.

But he said his time in Tulsa helped him get comfortable on the court by providing meaningful minutes. If all goes well, though, Aldrich will go from Tulsa to the Thunder's ninth or 10th man.

“I'm really excited,” Aldrich said. “Every year is a new opportunity, whether you get it in one way or another. But it's going to be exciting.”