Thunder coach Scott Brooks made a surprising substitution Saturday night against Atlanta when he opted to go with second-year center Cole Aldrich as the backup to starter Kendrick Perkins, who was plagued with foul trouble against the Hawks.
After Perkins picked up his third foul with 6:33 remaining in the second quarter, Brooks inserted Aldrich instead of bringing back customary backup Nazr Mohammed. In the second half, Aldrich also received the reserve minutes.
“Cole gives us energy,” Brooks said. “He's an energy guy that comes in and does his job. He's been working all year. That's his job, is also to be ready, and he was ready (Saturday night).”
Asked about the decision to play Aldrich over Mohammed, Brooks said it was a matter of Perkins' foul situation. Perkins picked up five fouls in 13 minutes and eventually fouled out in 16 minutes. But Brooks also was noncommittal about which direction he will go from here with the team's backup center minutes.
“I don't know what I'm going to do next game,” Brooks said. “They both are professionals. They both prepare to play. We'll see.”
Aldrich said Brooks hasn't told him anything regarding his role. Aldrich said his job is just to stay ready.
“That's the biggest thing,” Aldrich said. “You've got to prepare yourself every game like you're going to get in, and if you don't, you just got to keep on preparing yourself.”
Aldrich made an impact during his 14 minutes, 28 seconds. He scored six points with a career-high seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
“I think that's my job, just to come in whenever my name is called and go in and give the energy and rebound like I did,” Aldrich said.
Forward Nick Collison was impressed and said fans have yet to really see what Aldrich has to offer.
“Cole played well,” Collison said. “He's done well this year when he's got the chance. He's an NBA rotation player. He just hasn't gotten a chance to show it yet. But he's going to be good for us.”
HOME SWEET HOME
After going 2-1 on an East Coast three-game road trip that swung through Philadelphia, Orlando and Atlanta, the Thunder will now gear up for a five-game homestand inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
It ties the longest home stretch the Thunder has had this season. The Thunder swept its first five-game home stretch.
“It's going to be nice,” said Aldrich. “With the All-Star break and then hitting the road right away for three games, it's going to be nice to be back and sleep in our own beds. I'm sure for Kevin, it's probably been two weeks since he's been back. We're all going to enjoy it.”
HAYWARD RECALLED FROM TULSA
The Thunder has recalled forward Lazar Hayward from the Tulsa 66ers.
Hayward played in two games with the 66ers after being assigned to Tulsa last Friday. He averaged 28 points, seven rebounds and 36 minutes in those contests.
The team originally assigned Hayward to Tulsa so that he could stay sharp. Hayward was not receiving much playing time with the Thunder, and he also had been sidelined after sustaining an orbital floor fracture. A quick trip to Tulsa was a convenient way to allow Hayward to improve his conditioning.
In 12 games with the Thunder, Hayward is averaging 1.5 points, 0.9 rebounds and 5.9 minutes. He will be back on the bench and available for Monday's game against Dallas.
Brooks on Russell Westbrook playing through an ankle sprain Saturday: “Russell's a no-excuse player. He does his job, and he does it consistently every night. He plays with everything he has. I think it's a nonissue. The guy just competes, and he does whatever it takes for his team to be successful. I'm happy that he went out and battled. I know he was sore. But he went out and played a good basketball game.”
The Thunder returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena where it will open a five-game homestand on Monday against Dallas. It will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams. The Thunder is 2-1 against the Mavs this season.