Cole Aldrich will have to earn his playing time

Thunder coach Scott Brooks likes a nine-man rotation, which means that rookie center Cole Aldrich will likely have to jump ahead of Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison or Serge Ibaka for playing time.
By Darnell Mayberry, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: July 13, 2010 at 11:56 am •  Published: July 12, 2010

If Cole Aldrich wants significant playing time this season, he'll have to beat out last year's big men.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Monday that he isn't likely to make an exception to his preferred nine-man rotation to accommodate the promising rookie from Kansas.

"Nine is a good number for me," Brooks said. "That's what the league (plays), from eight to nine and sometimes you might have a 10th guy. And we're pretty set, but we're not set. There's minutes to be had. There are spots that are open, and he has to come in and earn."

Aldrich, at least to start the season, is likely to play behind last year's starting center Nenad Krstic, who logged right at 23 minutes per game in 2009-10. Krstic's backup, customary power forward Nick Collison, played 20.8 minutes, and rookie forward Serge Ibaka received 18.1 minutes per game.

Aldrich also will be competing against second-year center Byron Mullens, who has shown the most improvement of the second- and third-year players this off-season.

"One of the strengths of our team, how we got to the point we were at last season was our ability to practice with extreme intensity," Brooks said. "Our guys get after each other, and I expect training camp to be a battle every day.

"Minutes, who knows? I met the guy four days ago. We have to see how he gets better the rest of the summer and in training camp. We don't know what's going to happen in training camp. But I know our guys are going to be ready to compete and he's going to be in there competing with them."