Two years ago, with the NBA lockout dragging into the winter, Thabo Sefolosha signed a conditional deal with Fenerbahce Ulker, a Turkish team in the Euroleague.
He played seven games for the Istanbul-based club, averaging 11.4 points and a team-best 5.1 rebounds, but eventually returned to the NBA once labor negotiations were settled.
On Saturday, he returns to the same gym where he briefly starred, as the Thunder is scheduled to tip off its first preseason game against Fenerbahce Ulker at 8 a.m. CT on NBA TV.
“I had a great time here, great people,” Sefolosha told reporters on Friday in Turkey. “Some of the guys I played with left, Coach left, but it's still a pleasure to see some of the guys I played with, even if it's fewer than before.”
But the Sefolosha that fans will see on Saturday won't be the same one some are accustomed to.
During his international career in France, Italy, Switzerland and Istanbul, Sefolosha was more of a slasher/scorer, often his team's best offensive player. In OKC, that's clearly not the case.
“Obviously, the teammates I have in Oklahoma, in my role, they are not expecting me to score points,” Sefolosha explained to reporters who questioned why he isn't more assertive with the Thunder. “We got two guys who have the ball a lot and a lot of talent, so I understand that and try to fulfill my role and help the team the way I can. Coach expecting me to play defense and that's what I do.”
“I want to keep getting better, keep developing my game,” Sefolosha continued. “I came in and the thing I was doing in France and Italy was with the ball in my hands, going to the basket and getting fouled and things like that. But in the NBA, the things they expect of you, the role is different. So I try to adjust my game for the better of the team.
DIFFERENT COUNTRY, MORE D-WADE TALK
Halfway across the world, Kevin Durant still can't escape the lingering backlash from his week-old Dwyane Wade comments.
Durant has already cleared the air regarding the statement he made two Tuesdays ago, saying he believed James Harden was a top-10 player over Wade.
But in Istanbul, he was asked, once again, if there were any issues between him and the Heat star.
“I'm cool with it. I have no problems with D-Wade,” Durant told reporters. “There's no beef. I said something, he responded, it's over with now. I don't mean no disrespect by him. I love D-Wade's game and what he's done for the league, but I just feel some of the older guys like him and Kobe are passing the torch to the other players. I'm not saying they got worse as players, I'm just saying they're passing the torch to the younger guys, just like the older guys did to them.”
*Kevin Durant when asked what kind of atmosphere he expects on Saturday: “It'll be like a regular road game for us, a lot of people cheering against us. We are in another country, playing against their hometown team. So we don't expect to have any fans, to be honest.”