When, or if, Arron Afflalo returns to the court, Oklahoma City Thunder defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha will be waiting for him.
That alone should tell you the quality of player the Denver Nuggets are missing in their opening-round playoff series against the Thunder.
Sefolosha routinely draws the opponent's toughest perimeter assignment. Though Denver has a well-balanced attack with eight players averaging in double-digits since a Feb. 22 trade with the New York Knicks, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Afflalo is who would be in Sefolosha's sights.
Afflalo missed Game 1 on Sunday night while nursing a hamstring strain.
When asked what percent chance he would play in Wednesday's Game 2, he said: “Zero. It hasn’t even been 10 days yet (of rest). I’ve made a mistake three times (by coming back). It’s not even being cautious, it’s just not healed. I’ve tried to come back in the regular season. I’m trying to get past that marker.”
It remains unknown when he will return, if at all. Wilson Chandler started in place of Afflalo in the opening 107-103 loss inside Oklahoma City Arena.
"It is frustrating because I want to get out and help my team, but they'll be fine," Afflalo said an hour before Sunday's tipoff. "I can perhaps run around and shoot, but can I play a competitive playoff game, be effective for my team for the type of minutes I play and not re- aggravate (the injury)? That's a different story."
Afflalo has aggravated the injury twice since initially getting hurt March 5 at the Los Angeles Clippers.
He was wearing a white T-shirt and team shorts at the Nuggets' light practice Monday afternoon. Afflalo did some stand-still shooting and at one point made 17 straight 3-pointers.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks calls Afflalo "one of the best players on a team of good players. He seems like he brings some stability, some solid play defensively and he makes big shots. Every 3 he's made this year from the corner has been assisted. He spots up and when you deliver the ball, he makes shots for them. He's another good player for them."
OKC point guard Russell Westbrook played one season alongside Afflalo at UCLA.
"He brings defense and toughness," Westbrook said. "He's a tough guy. I've known him for a while. He likes to compete and he can defend as well."
A fourth-year shooting guard, Afflalo was considered one of the league's most improved players this season, averaging 12.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
Though Afflalo has earned the Thunder's respect, but he has yet to burn OKC.
In two games against the Thunder this season, Afflalo converted just 3 for 10 from the field while averaging 4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 32.5 minutes. He missed the final two meetings due to the hamstring.
"The thing is, three times I've done a 10-day period and came back," Afflalo said of the injury. "Obviously, the initial strain was the worst, so coming back after the initial strain was tough. Although that was the one time, I did make it through a full game. The other two times were both nine- to 10-day periods – which is where I'm at now – and I tweaked it."
Afflalo has not ruled out missing the entire series. "The reality is hamstrings take three to four weeks to really heal without the possibility of re-tweaking it," Afflalo said. "But that doesn't mean I can't get out on the court, so I'm going to kind of roll with the series, see how things are looking for us, the position we're in. I will get on the court."
And if he steps onto the court, Sefolosha will be waiting.
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.