Who will replace Kevin Martin?
That is the question many Thunder observers are asking at the start of the 2013-14 NBA season.
But the answer might be no one.
“I don't think we try to find somebody to slip into his slot or slip into that particular slot,” said Russell Westbrook. “The main problem, I personally think, is since James (Harden) left everybody thinks we need to fill that slot. We need a player to fill that slot. The slot doesn't have to be filled. We have a great team and if everybody does their job and does their role we'll be all right.”
Third-year guard Reggie Jackson and second-year guard Jeremy Lamb are expected to be looked to more for bench scoring this season. Starting power forward Serge Ibaka, who averaged a career-high 13.2 points last season, also is expected to get more opportunities on offense.
“My job is to find who is best for us on the floor,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “And the good thing about all of our players is they understand it's earned minutes.”
ALL SYSTEMS GO?
When scoring became such a struggle following the injury to Westbrook last season, the Thunder's offense came under fire. Many began to question the team's offensive philosophy, which has long been mostly about allowing Westbrook and Kevin Durant freedom to make plays.
It's a strategy that has fallen short in past postseasons even when Westbrook and Durant were healthy, but Westbrook's absence last year only exposed the plan even more.
Brooks, however, stood by his approach when asked if his team's postseason struggles last season would lead him to re-evaluate the offense.
“We have a terrific offensive system,” Brooks said. “The only thing I could say we have to get better at is not turning the ball over. And it's something I've been talking about for a lot of years. … If we can just cut our turnovers down one turnover per game, we're in the top 10 in least amount of turnovers.”
The Thunder added two new assistants this summer, welcoming former NBA player Robert Pack and longtime coach Mike Terpstra to the staff.
Brooks talked about what attracted him to both coaches.
“Pack brings a great deal of playing experience and coaching experience,” Brooks said. “He's played the (point guard) position and played it at a high level. And he has toughness. … He brings an intensity level that I like.”
Brooks said Westbrook will now work closely with Pack.
“Mike Terpstra has a large knowledge of basketball at many different levels, and he will also aid me in areas that I see fit,” Brooks said. “And he will do a great job with our players.”
Pack and Terpstra replaced Maurice Cheeks and Maz Trakh. Cheeks took the head coaching job in Detroit, and Trakh joined him as an assistant.
“They did an incredible job for all of our players and myself and we wish them well in Detroit,” Brooks said. “It's a great opportunity for those two. Maurice is a dear friend and I love what he did for me and our players.”
The Thunder will have three more days of practice before departing for Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday.
The team will go through two-a-day sessions Sunday and Monday before wrapping up practices in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
The Thunder is scheduled to be abroad for six days as part of its two-game preseason slate in Europe. After playing Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul on Saturday, the Thunder is scheduled to return home immediately after its game against Philadelphia in Manchester, England.