Thunder Rumblings

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Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday's win over Charlotte

by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 2, 2014
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Bobcats put up a pretty good fight…

  • Unfortunate news to report Sunday. Thabo Sefolosha will miss four-to-six weeks with a left calf strain. He could be back earlier, he could be back later, according to GM Sam Presti. But a six-week hiatus will keep him out until April 13, which is the third-to-last game of the season.
  • Presti: “Given that it’s in the calf, and the literature speaks to the likelihood of re-injury, we’re probably going to be out a while. He may come back a little sooner from this. He could come back a little later. But we’re going to give you four-to-six weeks as period of time that we’ll probably be without him.”
  • Presti addressed the signing of Caron Butler. “He’s somebody that we feel is going to add and complement to our team. He brings physicality…He does that on both ends of the floor. He’s a guy that can make shots and can make timely shots. We think that’s a complement to the group that we have. And it’s added depth…It’s not necessarily the way we look at it as a need, but I think we look at it more as an opportunity.”
  • Butler’s name plate was already above a stall in the Thunder’s locker room. He’s sitting between Nick Collison and Andre Roberson and will wear No. 2.
  • Presti called Butler’s journey to OKC “a little bit of an adventure at the moment” due to the city’s inclement weather and the team is working through it. But he said Butler will be with the team Monday.
  • Presti said Butler’s signing had nothing to do with Kendrick Perkins‘ injury, which should end speculation that the this team makes reactionary moves based on poor play or minor setbacks. I’ve heard people assume that Russell Westbrook came back early at the start of the season simply because of a poor performance at Minnesota. I’ve heard folks assume the front office felt more comfortable allowing him to rest longer following his third surgery because the team was playing well. Maybe some organizations operate that way. Maybe a lot. The Thunder isn’t one of them. “I don’t think anything we’ve done is the result of an injury,” he said. “I think what we’ve done is looked at where we are, kind of looked at the body of work for the season, having seen the team play for quite a bit now, and just make a determination as to if this was an additive transaction. And we felt like it was.”
  • Presti addressing a similar question with a more direct answer: “We’re not making the signing as a result of one thing or the other. I think, if anything, it speaks to the fact that depth is important if you want to play at an elite level because the NBA season is a long, long season.”
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks wouldn’t commit to Butler playing Tuesday. “We’ll see,” Brooks said. “First, I haven’t met him yet. I mean, I’d like to get to know him a little bit before I make a commitment. But we’re going to blend him in. However, that goes that remains to be seen. But tomorrow, I’ll sit down with him and spend a few minutes and maybe get on the practice floor if everything goes as planned.”
  • Perry Jones III started in place of Sefolosha tonight, but Brooks said that starting 2-guard spot is “fluid.” He’s gone with Andre Robseron there in the past and said Jeremy Lamb is likely to get an opportunity as well.
  • As I wrote for Monday’s paper, whenever Lamb gets his chance it will give us our first glimpse of the potential future starting lineup, perhaps a first string that could be used as early as next season with Sefolosha becoming a free agent and Perkins regressing. If that happened, it’d be the first time Brooks changed his starting lineup, barring injury, since Perk was acquired at the 2011 trade deadline.
  • PJ3 was OK in the starting unit. Not great. Not bad. Just kind of out there for the most part. He had four points, one rebound and two assists in 22 minutes. He made two of six shots. Defensively, he started on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, which isn’t much of a challenge (MKG scored one point, missing both his field goals in 20 minutes). But it seemed that Brooks wanted to give PJ3 another crack at it after starting him at the beginning of the third against Memphis. Consistency, you know. He’s big on that. And rightfully so. Also, it seemed Brooks didn’t want to disrupt too much of the second unit by inserting Lamb. He could have gone with Roberson as he has in the past. But he settled on Jones. And with Brooks viewing him as his “utility defender,” it’s likely that he saw Jones in somewhat of the same mold as Sefolosha, a long an agile defender to complement the team’s two offensive stars with dirty work on the other end. It’ll be interesting to see where Brooks goes from here with the starting 2-guard spot. No matter how “fluid” he says it is, I just can’t see him shuffling players in and out every game.
  • One of PJ3′s two field goals was a filthy two-dribble drive past Gerald Henderson for a powerful dunk. It came with 8:03 left in the third quarter and showed a glimpse of the explosiveness he has that leaves you wondering why he doesn’t play more. The answer to that could be because, again, it was one of only two field goals. He’s got to be more consistent with that effort. It’s been the knock on him since college.
  • Adams was a mixed bag tonight. More great experience for him getting to cover Al Jefferson for a good chuck of his 19 minutes, but a bit of a struggle to be steady. Foul trouble reared its head for him, as he picked up two in the first five minutes and was forced to sit, before finishing with five. When he returned in the second quarter, Jefferson abused him a bit late in the second quarter. But, again, great experience. He’ll be better because of it. He’s a hard worker and a fast learner who wants to improve.
  • One thing about Steve-O that I’m starting to be concerned about is his tendency to bobble rebounds. At what point is that not just a fluke? Collison said last week that when Adams gets acclimated to the speed and intricacies of the game, he’ll corral those balls more frequently. I’ll choose to believe Collison on just about anything basketball related. But I am a bit concerned that it might balloon into a bigger problem.
  • The start of this game was the Westbrook-Kevin Durant show. They scored the Thunder’s first 19 points, combining to make eight of nine field goals. And it was just beautiful how they complemented each other. Durant worked from the right block on one possession, killing Kidd-Gilchrist, and Westbrook went to work on the left block, just big-boying Kemba Waker.
  • The Thunder’s first non-KD/Westbrook bucket came on a Serge Ibaka jumper with 4:54 left to play in the opening quarter. It put OKC ahead 21-14.
  • Westbrook was great for the third straight game. And he was better than he was in the last one for the third straight game, too. Tonight, he finished with 26 points on 10 of 12 shooting, his best display of accuracy in his career on at least 10 attempts. He had it all working, the drive, the pull-up, the 3-pointer. He started 8-for-8 before missing his first shot, a 3, with 6:09 left in the third quarter. His second and final miss came on a backdoor layup attempt with 3:45 left to play.
  • Brooks: “I thought Russell really had great command of the game. I think it is good to see him continue to get his game legs under him. I give the staff a lot of credit. They have put him in a position to get better day-by-day. I thought he really controlled the game tonight.”
  • Westbrook: “I’m just trying to take my time. I’ll take whatever shot is given to me, but at the same time to take my time and knock them down…The more I play, the more rhythm I’m able to catch and the more rhythm I’m able to get.”
  • The one knock on Westbrook’s game tonight was his turnovers. He had a pretty lousy stretch at one point, dribbling it out of bounds and just throwing it away. He finished with five of the Thunder’s 15, but he more than made up for his mistakes with how he scored and managed the game.
  • AND THAT STEAL AND FAST BREAK DUNK!
  • Durant started 5-for-6 but then missed 14 straight shots. He snapped the streak with a gorgeous drive by Anthony Tolliver for a dunk.
  • Is there any other player who can miss 14 straight shots and still lead all scorers with 24 points through three quarters? Durant did it tonight, thanks to his 12-for-12 clip from the foul line.
  • Through three quarters, Durant had 24 points on 6-for-21 shooting, while Westbrook had 23 points on 9-for-10 shooting. Role reversal.
  • Sure enough, Durant finished with a game-high 28 points despite an awful shooting night. One of those nights that just speaks to how sensational he is as a scorer.
  • Durant picked up his 10th technical foul tonight, which moved him into a tie for third with Lance Stephenson and Markieff Morris. And the crazy thing about it is he had basically been trying to get it for 90 seconds before an official finally gave it to him. He was screaming some choice words at one ref while griping about a no-call, and he continued to stare down the same ref even after he made a call on a subsequent possession.
  • Durant’s eventful night continued when he scared all of Oklahoma by rolling his right ankle on a drive with 1:51 left in the second quarter. He stepped on Henderson’s foot as he attacked the basket and collapsed to the court, where he stayed for a few moments as teammates and the training staff attended to him. But he got up — complaining some more — and hobbled to the bench for a timeout before immediately returning to the game.
  • Hasheem Thabeet made the Thunder’s quote sheet. That’s kind of like a NCAA team bringing the 15th man into a postgame press conference.
  • But Thabeet deserved it. For the second straight game he supplied some real quality minutes. He didn’t score, didn’t take a shot and had three fouls in 15 minutes. But he had four rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. He owned Henderson when he swallowed his layup attempt with two hands before pulling down an offensive rebound at the other end and watching that led to Ibaka’s first jumper. He later played textbook low-post defense on Jefferson, baiting him into thinking he had space before rejecting his shot. And he later sent back a driving layup attempt by Cody Zeller. Thabeet also stripped Josh McRoberts cleanly at the high post and came up with the loose ball. “You go through a lot of work every day,” Thabeet said. “And for me, just to be a part of it and get some minutes is great. I’ve just got to keep working.”
  • Derek Fisher made another unsustainable 3 tonight. That’s what I’m calling them for the rest of the season. Unsustainable 3s. The kind where he pulls up from three feet behind the 3-point line as if only to prove he’s got the ultimate green light but ultimately splashes it in. Those. Unsustainable 3s.
  • Love watching Fisher play post defense when a bigger guard (Henderson on this night) thinks he has a mouse in the house. Fish bodies up and bangs back. If someone scores on him from the block, I guarantee you they’ll pay the price and feel it in the morning.
  • The defense wasn’t good tonight. Not until the fourth quarter. Charlotte shot 54.1 percent through halftime and hovered around 50 percent for much of the first three quarters.
  • In the fourth quarter, the Thunder held the Bobcats to 4-for-13 shooting and hounded them into eight turnovers.
  • So much for Ben Gordon. Kind of dirty of the Bobcats to waive him after Saturday’s deadline to be eligible to play in the playoffs for another team.
  • Shout out to the fans who braved (or brought, inside joke) the weather and cheered on the Thunder. The roads were awful coming in this afternoon. So it was a testament to the passion Thunder heads have for their hometown team for about 13,500 to still show up and support the team. Was great to see that.
  • Up next: Philadelphia on Tuesday.
by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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