On Friday afternoon, we'll discover how many more camp casualties the Thunder must add to its count.
Guard Nate Robinson became the first victim. The explosive 5-foot-9 reserve will not report to camp and could soon part ways with the team.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti and Robinson's agent, Aaron Goodwin, mutually agreed it would be best for Robinson to remain in his native Seattle rather than join the team. Robinson, who was acquired in the midseason trade that sent Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to Boston in exchange for Kendrick Perkins, was faced with not being in coach Scott Brooks' rotation for a second season. Rather than force Robinson to join the team, all parties involved decided to split now while the two sides seek a long-term solution.
“They don't plan on using him in their rotation, and we wanted to see if we could find a better opportunity somewhere else,” Goodwin told The Oklahoman.
Because teams were prohibited from any contact whatsoever with players and agents throughout the 149-day lockout, the Thunder was unable to find a suitable situation over the summer. When the lockout was lifted, the organization became faced with finding an answer in a matter of days to a challenge that typically can take a three-month offseason to solve.
“In collaboration with Nate Robinson and his representatives, we have mutually agreed to continue working toward clarifying his future status with the Thunder,” the team announced in a statement Thursday night on behalf of Presti. “Nate is an accomplished player, but with the current composition of our roster, it will be unlikely he will have an opportunity to contribute on a nightly basis.
“Given the compressed period of time that we have been given to work through the current situation, it has been decided that Nate will not attend training camp while we work with his representatives to resolve the situation. We will not be commenting on this subject further but will provide notification when a resolution is reached.”
Friday marks the first day NBA teams are permitted to sign players to contracts or complete trades. The sudden signing period, however has created loads of confusion if not complete chaos.
Restricted free agent Daequan Cook could be forced to miss the start of camp, as well as rookie Reggie Jackson, the 24th overall pick.
The Thunder has been in discussions with Cook's representatives about a contract extension. But with the signing period beginning at 1 p.m., and practice scheduled to start at 3 p.m., it appears unlikely a deal will be completed in time for Cook to join the team. Because of uncertainty with rules contained within a collective bargaining agreement that was ratified on Thursday night, Jackson also is at risk of not being able to participate in the opening practice.
Oklahoma City is better off than most teams, a handful of which have only a few players under contract. The Thunder has 12 if you exclude Robinson. The league maximum is 15.
Still, thanks to the lockout the Thunder, like every other team, has little time to spare. OKC has only nine days of practice time to prepare for this shortened 66-game season before the preseason opener at Dallas on Dec. 18. The regular season opener is Dec. 25 against Orlando inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It's going to be up to each team to prepare themselves on a day-to-day basis,” Presti said at his annual preseason news conference Wednesday. “And I've got tremendous confidence in Scott and our players that they're going to be able to manage that and be ready to play each night.”
It's unclear which direction the Thunder might go with Robinson in the meantime. The team could agree to a buyout, trade him or use the amnesty clause in the new collective bargaining agreement. It's unlikely that the Thunder will amnesty Robinson, however, because the team is under the salary cap and Robinson is scheduled to be paid a relatively inexpensive $4.5 million this season in the final year of his contract. The Thunder could hold onto its one-time amnesty option to use on a larger deal later so long as it was signed before July 1, 2011.
Robinson, who holds career averages of 11. points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists, appeared in only four regular season games with the Thunder. He averaged 3.3 points and 1.5 assists in 7.5 minutes.