Comfort, communication and carryover.
In a nutshell, that's what Thunder coach Scott Brooks seeks from his team as the seven-game preseason schedule gets under way with Wednesday night's opener against Houston.
For the players, impressing the staff this exhibition season starts with completing those three objectives.
“We want to see what we've picked up, what the new guys have picked up and how well they're playing with their instincts,” Brooks said.
Brooks has raved about how productive the start of training camp has been, particularly the energy and intensity players have given. Now Brooks wants to see carryover against new competition — especially from the seven new faces that are in their first camp with the Thunder.
“They all know the stuff,” Brooks said of the younger players like rookies Perry Jones III and Hollis Thompson. “Sometimes it might take a split second to internalize it, but sometimes that's too late in a basketball game against an opponent. So we have to figure out who has picked it up, who feels comfortable out there to just go and play the game that we've worked on for the last 10 days.”
Unlike past years, the Thunder has focused heavily on developing offensively, so attention to detail on that end of the floor will be a point of emphasis.
“We've spent quite a bit of time working on that,” Brooks said.
And as always, a commitment to defending will be paramount.
“That's where it always has to start for us, defensive execution, defensive intensity, defensive toughness,” Brooks said. “Those are things that we will definitely monitor (Wednesday) night.”
To further improve the defense, players are talking about, well, talking. The word communication has bounced off the walls so much at the team's training center over the past week that it sounds like the newest company line.
“We could have been a lot better (last year) just by us talking,” said Kevin Durant.
Asked on Tuesday what would make Wednesday's exhibition opener a success, forward Nick Collison immediately pointed to communication.
“I think if we can communicate,” Collison said. “If we can execute some things offensively and defensively is big. Try to defend their sets. And communication is big, talking more and moving as a unit. That would be a good start.”
As has been the case in the past, Brooks doesn't plan to give his stars too much work. Durant and Russell Westbrook, Brooks said, likely will be limited to 16 minutes. Serge Ibaka could play as many as 18 minutes. It's possible none of those three players take the court again after halftime.
“I think everybody is going to get an opportunity,” Brooks said. “Our starters are not going to play heavy minutes. I can't imagine those guys playing over 16 to 18 minutes. Maybe right at that number. But guys are going to get lots of opportunities. It's a great time for them to get out there and show what they can do and how they do it within team concepts.”
Thunder vs. Rockets
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: State Farm Arena (Hidalgo, Texas)
Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640
Three things to know
* This is the preseason opener for both teams.
* Thabo Sefolosha (hamstring) and Kendrick Perkins (wrist) will not play due to injury.
* Thunder coach Scott Brooks has said that none of his starters will play more than 20 minutes Wednesday night.
Pos., Player, Ht., Pts., Reb., Ast.
G, Russell Westbrook, 6-3, 23.6, 4.6, 5.5
G, Daequan Cook, 6-5, 5.5, 2.1, 0.3
F, Kevin Durant, 6-9, 28.0, 8.0, 3.5
F, Serge Ibaka, 6-10, 9.1, 7.5, 0.4
C, Cole Aldrich, 6-11, 2.2, 1.8, 0.1
Pos., Player, Ht., Pts., Reb., Ast.
G, Jeremy Lin, 6-3, 14.6, 3.1, 6.2
G, Kevin Martin, 6-7, 17.1, 2.7, 2.8
F, Chandler Parsons, 6-9, 9.5, 4.8, 2.1
F, Patrick Patterson, 6-9, 7.7, 4.5, 0.8
C, Omer Asik, 7-0, 3.1, 5.3, 0.5
* All stats are from the 2011-12 regular season.