Thunder coach Scott Brooks presumably will hear some more boos when his team plays at Chicago on Tuesday night.
Brooks got an earful on Friday night in Tulsa when he refused to insert popular sixth man James Harden (groin injury) against Phoenix, despite chants of “We want Harden” from a sellout crowd at the BOK Center.
Fans attending the preseason contest between the Thunder and Bulls at the United Center might voice their displeasure when they realize Brooks has opted to not play three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook.
Brooks has yet to repeat the same starting lineup this entire preseason, which will make Tuesday the sixth different combination.
In Sunday night's 108-101 victory at home against Denver, Brooks was able to use his normal starting for the first time with the returns of guard Thabo Sefolosha (thigh bruise) and center Kendrick Perkins (left wrist) from injury rehab.
Against the Bulls, Brooks has chosen to sit Olympic gold medalists in Durant and Westbrook, partly for rest after a hectic summer, but primarily so Brooks can continue his far-reaching evaluation of an overloaded roster.
“Give some looks to other guys,” Brooks said of his latest starting combo. “It had nothing to do with injuries. I wanted to see guys play extended minutes and (this was) the only way to do that, because we have so many guys at the wing spot.”
Brooks said free agent guard DeAndre Liggins and reserve forward Lazar Hayward also will get extended looks against the Bulls, who feature former Thunder players Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed.
This will be a rare moment for Maynor, the calm and confident backup point guard whose only other start with the Thunder came in a 2010 preseason game at Denver. Despite coming off knee surgery and playing just nine games last season, Maynor has a 3.53-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in four preseason games this year.
The defending Western Conference champion Thunder closes out the preseason Wednesday with a 7 p.m. contest against the Dallas Mavericks at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.
“We have to figure out who plays well with a certain group and go from there,” Brooks said. “We expect them to do very well. It doesn't matter who Chicago throws out there or who Dallas throws out (on the court). We just really want to focus on what we do and how we do it.”
Some of the more intriguing OKC combinations this preseason have involved power forward Serge Ibaka at center while playing alongside Perkins, Durant, Nick Collison or rookie Perry Jones III.
“Serge's ability to defend players now makes the decision a little easier than two or three years ago,” Brooks explained. “I think he can guard 4s and 5s. We have a different look when he's at the 5. We can switch more. He's just a unique athlete. With our traditional lineup with Perk (at center), we can also switch now that Perk has a good feel for what we do. I feel confident that either guy can guard either position.”
Whatever the combination, Brooks expects success.
“We have a good team,” Brooks said. “We have great choices to make. It's part of the tough decisions I have to make, to pick and choose who will finish games, who will play minutes, but we have some good choices. The guys have done a good job of developing their games to allow those choices to be tough.”
Thunder at Bulls
When: 7 p.m.
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBA TV (Cox 256, HD Ch. 726)
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM
Three things to know
* Former Thunder reserve Nate Robinson is averaging 12.8 points while starting at point guard in place of injured Derrick Rose.
* Former Thunder reserve Nazr Mohammed is averaging 9.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 20.0 minutes off the bench this preseason.
* The Bulls are 4-2 this preseason and have one game left, against Indiana on Friday night at the Notre Dame's Joyce Center.
Pos.; Player; Ht.; Pts.; Reb.; Ast.
G; Eric Maynor; 6-3;7.5;2.5;5.3
G; Thabo Sefolosha; 6-7;8.0;4.0;0.0
G; James Harden; 6-5;12.5;2.5;3.0
F; Serge Ibaka; 6-10;14.3;7.3;1.3-x
C; Kendrick Perkins; 6-10;4.0;4.0;2.0-x
Pos.; Player; Ht.; Pts.; Reb.; Ast.
G; Nate Robinson; 5-9;12.8;2.5;4.0
G; Richard Hamilton; 6-7;15.3;3.3;1.3
F; Luol Deng; 6-9;9.0;2.7;1.3
F; Carlos Boozer; 6-9;7.8;5.0;0.8
C; Joakim Noah; 6-11;11.0;10.0;2.3