After two days off — one required, one optional — the Thunder returned to the practice court Tuesday for a 90-minute session that included going 4-on-4.
Coach Scott Brooks categorized it as a structured scrimmage, though there was never any 5-on-5.
Kevin Durant and James Harden noted there were plenty of fouls, but few were called. Brooks ignored all complaints about his officiating, however.
“It wasn't that physical, but we ran them a lot because they had a day and half off,” Brooks said. “We wanted to get up and down the court but we wanted to still focus on a few things that we have to do, no matter who we play. I thought it was a good day, it wasn't long, but they worked hard. They got after it.”
Durant said the lack of whistles is by design.
“It makes us tougher,” Durant said. “We don't call fouls out here. Everybody, all they do is foul, so Coach lets us play. It's just getting us tougher. It's like a training camp. Every practice for us is like a training camp and that's the best thing about being here.”
CURIOUS OR CONFIDENT?
Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins observed practice from the sidelines and also received treatment on his right hip muscle strain. His return remains unknown.
Is Brooks more curious or confident that Perkins will be able to play against the Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Nuggets winner?
“Give me a couple more days,” Brooks said. “We just have to trust the process of getting better. Perk's going to do everything to put himself in a position to play. If that happens, great. If it doesn't, we have to make adjustments.”
Asked the same question, Durant said: “We trust in the trainers and the doctors here. Until they say otherwise, hopefully he's going to be in that lineup. I'm always thinking positive, so for me, I'll say he'll be there.”
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES
Last season, Perkins was clearly less than 100 percent while overcoming injuries to both knees. Brooks was asked if Perkins would be allowed to play at less than 100 percent while overcoming the hip injury.
“It's the medical staff's and Perk's call,” Brooks said. “It's everybody involved. It's always about the player. You can't put a guy out there and jeopardize anything. If he's ready to go, he will be out there. One thing about Perk, we all know that he's as tough as they come as a competitor. He will do everything within his power to be out there. If he's not ready, he's not ready. We have to make that decision when that decision comes.”
In the process of winning his third straight NBA scoring title (28.0), Durant was all but ignored in the fact he also led the Thunder in rebounding (8.0), was second in blocks (1.17) and third in assists (3.5).
During OKC's 13-point, fourth-quarter comeback against the Mavericks in Game 4, Durant had nine points, six rebounds and one block in the final 9:54 of the game. Durant finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, his seventh double-double in the playoffs the last two seasons.
“Coach relies on me a lot to be a rebounder and every time we got to timeout he was always screaming at me to rebound, rebound, rebound,” Durant said. “Perk is one of our better rebounders along with Serge (Ibaka) and they do a great job. I was just trying to fill a void and was able to get my hands on a few.”
HARD ON HARDEN
Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't the only Thunder players to face multiple defenses. Harden has experienced an array of defenses that try to prevent him from constantly penetrating.
“I saw a lot of different defenses this past year, with trapping and things like that,” Harden said. “You just have to learn how to make your teammates better. Being a playmaker, you've got some people guarding you. Obviously, somebody's open, so just find that open person.”
In addition to having a team-high 29 points in Game 4, Harden also had five assists, plus three steals and a block.
LOVE THE BEARD
A lock for Sixth Man of the Year, Harden said he was surprised at the outpouring of support from fans when he suffered a concussion after getting elbowed by the Lakers' Metta World Peace on April 22.
More love came Harden's way after he erupted for 15 fourth-quarter points in Saturday's series-clinching victory over Dallas at American Airlines Center.
“A lot of 'Fear the Beard' fans or Harden fans or whatever you want to call it,” Harden said with a smile. “The support that I have and this team has is just phenomenal, especially here in the city. It's just amazing. We love it. That's what motivates us to want to work hard every single day. We love the fans.”