With the first week of training camp complete and the Thunder's seven-game preseason schedule set to commence Wednesday, time management is now of the essence.
For coach Scott Brooks, unlike years past, time management now includes handling his stars with care.
Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka are all coming off a taxing year of basketball. They journeyed to the NBA Finals and all made it to the Olympic gold medal game. No other NBA team has four players that did both.
That grueling schedule led to a short summer and questions about how the four Olympians will be impacted this season. All four insist they got ample rest after the Olympics, and Brooks hasn't seemed concerned about the need to lighten their loads this preseason.
“The thing with our Olympians is they do not want me to take them out and take time off,” Brooks said. “They're young and they want to keep getting better, and they know they have to practice to get better.”
But it's Brooks' job to protect his young guys from themselves. Durant is 24, and Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka are 23. Each season the young guns brag about being able to play more and never wanting to sit.
Westbrook has never missed a game, and Durant led the league in minutes played last season. Both are badges of honor, but they're also additional reasons why the stars need rest.
Additionally, the Thunder is now at a different place. Oklahoma City has to protect players not only for the grind of an 82-game season but also for what likely will be another deep playoff run.
To do so, Brooks already has lessened practice reps and will soon limit playing time.
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