THUNDER LOOKING TO REBOUND IN UTAH
The chief objective for the Thunder in its second exhibition game Friday night against the Utah Jazz can be summed up in one word.
Oklahoma City is looking to rebound from its two-point loss to Houston two nights ago, and coach Scott Brooks thinks the best way to do that is to, you guessed it, rebound.
The Thunder gave up 21 offensive rebounds to the Rockets, leading Brooks to label that amount “unacceptable” and dedicate much of Thursday's two-hour practice to rebounding.
“That's been an issue for our team the last few years,” Brooks said. “We got to clean that up and hopefully this preseason we can get better in that area because we can make teams miss.”
IBAKA WILL PLAY, HARDEN WILL SIT
After being held out of the team's preseason opener because of a mild quad injury, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka will make his season debut against the Jazz.
Ibaka will take his customary place as the starting power forward, Brooks said, and be joined in the first string by Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Cole Aldrich.
Brooks said after Thursday's practice that he was undecided on who will start at shooting guard. It won't be James Harden. The Thunder's sixth man will sit out against the Jazz due to a groin injury.
WESTBROOK SIGNS WITH JORDAN BRAND
The Jordan Brand on Thursday officially announced Westbrook as the newest endorser of its shoe and apparel line, ending weeks of speculation about which company Westbrook would land with.
Westbrook has worn Jordan shoes throughout the preseason but would neither confirm nor deny that he had partnered with the company. On Thursday, Westbrook took to the social media site Twitter for the first time since Dec. 29 to announce his decision.
“It's an amazing brand as everybody knows,” Westbrook told The Oklahoman on Thursday. “But it's a new beginning for me and I'm looking forward to it.”
Michael Jordan said in a statement: “We are very excited to welcome Russell to the Jordan family. Russell's style, both on and off the court, combined with his love and dedication to the game make him a perfect fit for the Jordan Brand. We love the drive and passion for basketball that Russell brings.”
NOTHING IS GUARANTEED
Oklahoma City will get its first look at a Northwest divisional opponent when it takes the court in Utah at 8 p.m. Brooks said the Jazz are one of the most improved teams in the league.
“They've made some of the biggest improvements in the league, I think,” Brooks said. “You talk about the Lakers obviously and that improvement is off the charts. But Utah, they just improve internally and coach (Tyrone) Corbin does a good job of getting the team to play better and playing hard every night.”
The Northwest Division arguably will be the toughest in the league this year with Minnesota, Denver and Portland all competing with the Thunder and Jazz. So even though the Thunder has won consecutive division titles and is many people's favorite to return to the NBA Finals, Brooks said a third straight division title is not promised.
“I think it's good because you're not allowed to rest in this league,” Brooks said of the division's competitiveness. “If you rest, teams will put you in your place. We're not guaranteed to win the division. We have to work for that. Minnesota, Denver, everybody has improved, Utah, down the line. It's a very tough division. We have to play well and we have to play hard and do a lot of good things every night.”
PJIII LEARNING ON THE FLY
In his NBA debut, Perry Jones III scored eight points with five rebounds against the Rockets.
It was at times a blur for the 28th overall pick, but Jones said he was happy to get it under his belt.
“I was nervous at the start,” Jones said. “I'm in the NBA, and it's the most exciting thing that's happened to me. But like the guys were telling me, just be patient and wait on my name to be called. And coach called my name quicker than I thought. So I just went out there and tried to play hard the whole time and it was a good feeling.”