In a span of four days, the Thunder acquired two players who played collegiately in Arkansas.
Guard/forward Ronnie Brewer, obtained in a trade with the New York Knicks last Thursday, played three seasons at Arkansas before becoming the 14th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.
Veteran guard Derek Fisher, who re-signed with the Thunder on Monday morning, played four seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock and was the 24th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.
Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, who played collegiately at Texas for one season, said he believes players tend to play with more energy when they're closer to home or where they attended school.
Asked if he felt the same way, Brewer said: “I think so. Every time we traveled to OKC, no matter what team I was on, there's been people here locally or people making the trip from Arkansas, which is not that far. I always appreciate the support and to me it's just going to make me play with more of a sense of pride. Being way closer to home, I don't want to let anybody down on this team, the fans back home, either.”
Before the Thunder's 102-72 romp over Chicago, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about the shooting improvement of guard Thabo Sefolosha, who is shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range this season. Sefolosha's career 3-point percentage is 34.6 percent.
“It says a lot about how he's worked on his game,” Thibodeau said. “He continually gets a lot better.”
Thibodeau then included two more underrated Thunder players.
“They have three guys on their team who I think are sort of under the radar and they don't get the credit they probably deserve. … When you look at Sefolosha, (Kendrick) Perkins and (Nick) Collison, they bring a lot of toughness and intangibles to the team. They make the team function well. You can never overlook those guys. … It's a very well-put-together team. There's not many holes in it and they continually get better.”
‘TURN' THE PAGE
Turnovers have contributed significantly to the Thunder's defensive struggles lately. In games where OKC has surrendered 100-plus points, it also has committed 18-plus turnovers, which frequently lead to easy fast break points.
“When you give up high turnovers, which we're capable of doing, that puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That hurts your (opponent field-goal) percentage, that hurts everything. You have to take that into consideration. … When we don't turn the ball over, obviously our defense is much better.”
OKC is 29th in the NBA in turnovers at 15.8 per game. One way OKC could cut down on turnovers would be to slow down the pace, which isn't about to occur with arguably the league's most athletic team.
“We play a style that's very aggressive, so our turnovers are probably higher than normal,” Brooks said. “If we wanted to slow the game down and keep it in the low 90s, I'm sure our turnovers would be down to 13 or 14 a game. That's not worth it to me. Our guys have an aggressive personality and we have success running the ball and trying to score early in the possession.”
A potentially scary proposition awaits Thunder opponents whenever Brooks opts to play Sefolosha and Brewer simultaneously on the wings.
“Absolutely, they definitely can play together, they can complement each other,” Brooks said. “There are options where I think both can play at the same time.”
Thunder general manager Sam Presti is quite familiar with Fisher's agent. It's Rob Pelinka, who also represents Durant and James Harden. Pelinka advanced to three Final Fours as a player at Michigan, twice during the Fab Five era.