OKC Thunder: Thunder has all of training camp to install a Plan B

After Russell Westbrook went down last April with a knee injury, the Thunder had 21/2 days to adjust. This time, the team has a full training camp and seven-game preseason schedule to adopt a workable plan in Westbrook's absence.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 2, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) stretches on the court before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) stretches on the court before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

The strategy ultimately was enough to keep the Thunder competitive for 3 1/2 quarters. But scoring became a chore in a bogged-down offense (according to nba.com/stats, the team's points per 100 possessions dropped from 110.2 points in the regular season to 102.5 in the playoffs), and the burden only wore out Durant when he was needed most down the stretch.

So what will be different?

Brooks has returned for 2013-14 again stressing ball movement. The Thunder finished in the bottom third in assists last season and ranked 11th among last year's 16 playoff teams. Without Westbrook's 7.4 assists per game, the Thunder will try to turn to precise ball movement to get players like Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins easy shot opportunities.

Beyond that, Brooks might have no choice early on but to let Reggie Jackson run wild. Jackson in all likelihood will step in as the starting point guard and he'll have to replicate his postseason performance, when he averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 36.2 minutes per game following Westbrook's injury.

Much of the talk in the opening days of camp has been about how much more confident Jackson has looked as a leader.

“Reggie has done a great job in the first six practices that we've had in the last (few) days, establishing being a better player even more so than he was last season,” Brooks said.

Brooks might also need to trust his youngsters, something he hasn't truly done since James Harden's second season. Second-year guard Jeremy Lamb is just 21 but he was the prized piece in the Harden package. After only 147 regular season minutes as a rookie, Lamb could now start the season as the Thunder's most valuable bench scorer.

“We have players with high character who understand the situation that we're in,” Brooks said. “We're not feeling sorry for ourselves, and we shouldn't. We have a good team.”

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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