NEW ORLEANS — The bar has been set, but Thunder coach Scott Brooks wouldn’t say how high.
Someone will get a chance to raise it today as the Thunder plays its second preseason game at 1 p.m. against the New Orleans Hornets.
Ryan Bowen got the first crack at making his presence felt and establishing himself as a mainstay on Oklahoma City’s roster. But he’s competing with three others for Oklahoma City’s coveted 15th and final roster spot.
The stakes are high, and the odds are long.
The Thunder doesn’t have to fill the final spot, and many teams throughout the league are expected to enter the season with fewer than the maximum players allowed to save money. Add to that, three of the four battling for the job — Bowen, Michael Ruffin and Mike Harris — essentially play the same position. The fourth guy, Tre Kelley, is a point guard who every day looks up at Russell Westbrook, Shaun Livingston and Kevin Ollie on the depth chart.
"That’s a tough position to be in,” said Brooks. "I’ve been in that position many times. The only thing they can worry about is controlling what they can control and working hard and giving good effort. And all four have done that.”
Bowen got the ball rolling Wednesday in Memphis with a solid performance in the Thunder’s 99-91 loss to the Grizzlies. Bowen played 21 minutes off the bench, going scoreless with three rebounds and one blocked shot. But it was his hustle that stood out most, as he never gave up on a play, darted back on defense and did whatever he could to find the ball and make a play.
"One thing about Ryan is he makes plays, energy plays,” Brooks said. "He’s an intangible player that makes winning basketball plays. You can never look at Ryan’s career stats and say, ‘Wow, this guy really is a great stat guy.’ He’s not a stat guy, never was and never will be. He’s a guy that comes with energy and plays team basketball and makes winning plays.