Wilcox sits vs. RocketsChris Wilcox was the odd-man out Friday night. With Nenad Krstic now part of the rotation, Thunder coach Scott Brooks faces some tough decisions. Sitting Wilcox, who averages 5.4 rebounds and 9.2 points, was a curious decision. "You can’t play six bigs,” said Brooks. "Unfortunately, that’s the way the game is. I understand the situation is tough for guys who don’t get to play. That’s my decision. They have to continue to be professional about it. And Weezy (Wilcox) has been.” Will Wilcox sit again tonight against Chicago? "We’ll see how the game is going,” Brooks said. "But I like what our bigs did tonight. We anticipate them playing as well (against the Bulls).”
OBSERVERSDesmond Mason, who started the previous eight games, did not dress. Mason suffered a lower back contusion after taking a charging foul Wednesday night in Minnesota. Mason tested his back for 45 minutes during pre-game but decided he couldn’t go full speed. Nick Collison, who returned Wednesday after essentially missing eight games with a fractured thumb, replaced Mason in the starting lineup. Houston played without Ron Artest (ankle) and Brent Barry (personal reasons).
ATKINS UPDATEBrooks said point guard Chucky Atkins might make his Thunder debut as early as tonight. Atkins, acquired in a trade from Denver on Wednesday, is a nine-year NBA veteran. "He picks things up pretty quickly,” Brooks said. "We’re happy where he is after just one day. He already has a lot of stuff down.”
ROOKIE WALLThis is the point in a season when first-year players sometimes hit what is referred to as the "rookie wall.” The Thunder is in a stretch of five games in seven days. Point guard Russell Westbrook, though, has bucked the theory with solid play the past month. "It’s not just rookies, it’s players in general,” Brooks said. "You’ll have stretches (where) they need to find their second wind. Whether you’re a 10-year veteran, there will be a stretch where your body is not in tune. Physically, you get banged up. You have to fight through it.”
BACK TO BACKOklahoma City is 2-8 on the back end of games on consecutive nights. Three of the Thunder’s worst losses — Cleveland, Minnesota and Philadelphia — were the back end of a back-to-back games. The Thunder, though, posted its only road win (Memphis) on a back-to-back and has played well in other losses. Another factor is all but one of the back-end games have been on the road, just like tonight at Chicago. The only back-end home game was a win Nov. 2 against Minnesota.
WATCH PARTYThe Thunder will host its second watch party tonight at the Fox and Hound Pub & Grille on Memorial Road near Quail Springs Mall. The event, free to the public, will feature giveaways to see the Thunder play March 14 in Phoenix. Anyone in attendance can trade any hat for a free Thunder hat. BY MIKE BALDWIN