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OKC Thunder: Wilcox could be OKC's player on brink

By Darnell Mayberry Modified: September 28, 2008 at 11:31 am •  Published: September 28, 2008
In a sense that's unfair. But that's reality.”

Wilcox makes his living in the open court, running the floor and finishing plays with rim-rattling dunks. He's strong, quick and agile enough to both beat his man off the dribble for a basket and off the floor for rebounds at both ends.

The Thunder, however, is relying on Wilcox to show those traits regularly. Out of Wilcox's 17 double-doubles last season, only five came in back-to-back games.

"He has a chance to be an elite player in the league,” Carlesimo said. "At times, he's already proven that. But consistency is what separates the good players from the really good players in the league. And the great ones do it every night. But he has the capabilities of being a double-double guy.”

Carlesimo is seeking improved rebounding and defense out of Wilcox, a recurring challenge in which Wilcox can't seem to meet. After starting his third NBA season averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds in the first 10 contests, Wilcox was banished to the bench by Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy for not supplying more boards and blocks.

"I think he has another two or three years before he knows who he is as a player,” Dunleavy said early in that 2004-05 season. "The more he's in the league, the more experience, the more he understands, the more he'll learn and then things will become second nature to him. Then I think he becomes a monster.”

Despite rivaling the athleticism of Stoudemire, who ranked fifth in the league in blocked shots at 2.4 per game last season, Wilcox has never tallied more than 38 blocks in a season. A 66.6 percent free-throw shooter, Wilcox also needs to improve from the foul line to make defenses pay for stopping easy baskets with hard fouls. And the most grit Wilcox has shown as a rebounder came following his mid-year trade from the Clippers to the Seattle SuperSonics when he averaged 8.2 boards over the final 29 games of the 2005-06 season.

"He's always been consistent with 14 (points) and eight (rebounds) or 14 and nine,” Durant said. "Some games he'll give us 25 and 15. But if he stays on the floor and stays healthy, I think that's how he's going to be consistent for us. And if we keep getting him the ball and making it easy for him he's going to be a great player on our team.”

Carlesimo said he remains committed to helping Wilcox fine tune his game to reach an elite level.

"No one plays 82 good games,” Carlesimo said. "But you can play a real high number of games at that elite level. When you have a couple of those guys, then a couple of the other guys can be inconsistent.

"But you've got to have two or three that, night in and night out, are going to carry you. When you have a couple of those, everything else falls in place. And Weezy can be one of those guys.”

Chris Wilcox, right, is at a crossroads in his career, with his contract expiring soon. associated press


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