Byron Mullens repeatedly hears how the Thunder needs a center, which can be more than a tad disconcerting when you're No. 4 on your team depth chart.
The Thunder is expected to use one of its four NBA Draft picks, at least, to select someone who plays his position.
"I don't have any reaction to it," Mullens said. "I'm totally fine with it. It just makes me hungrier. I've been here a year and I've just got to show the general manager and the coaches that this is my spot, this where I belong and no one's going to take it."
The Thunder owns the No. 21, No. 26, No. 32 and No. 51 selections for Thursday night's draft. Will there be a center available in those draft slots who is better than the Thunder's current lineup of Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka and Mullens? If the answer is no, then why waste your pick(s)?
Mullens figures having one season in the NBA gives him a significant jump on the rookie competition. But he is still doing 6 a.m. daily workouts and coming back at noon to lift weights. How many rookies are doing that?
Mullens also hasn't taken any time off since last season ended. It's gotten to a point where Thunder bosses are pleading for Mullens to take a breather.
"They're telling me to take a vacation in August," the 21-year-old Mullens said with a smile. "I probably should, but I don't know."
Mullens was sent back-and-forth last season to the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder's affiliated team in the NBA Developmental League.
In 27 regular-season games (all starts) with the 66ers, Mullens averaged 15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 31.5 minutes, shot 45.2 percent from the field and 69.3 percent from the line. In four postseason games, Mullens averaged 13.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in 26.3 minutes. He also saw action in 13 regular-season games with the Thunder.
Being forced to make multiple trips on the Turner Turnpike might offend most first-round draft choices, but not the 7-foot, 275-pound Mullens, who was picked No. 24 overall by Dallas last season and quickly traded to the Thunder for point guard Rodrique Beaubois one pick later.
"I didn't take it like, 'Oh, man. I don't need to be down here,' " Mullens said. "I took it as a chance to get some work done and try to get better. I've learned what I need to work on and I'm going to get a lot better. Coming out of Ohio State, I knew that was something that might come into play. I just looked at Tulsa as a second year of college to me. I could still develop my skills, but I also was in the NBA where I wanted to be. Plus, I'm playing against better talent."
The Thunder and 66ers use the same terminology offensively and defensively, which helps with player transitions within the franchise.
"He's got the right attitude," 66ers coach Nate Tibbetts said of Mullen. "That's the way he needs to continue to approach it. He brought a professional approach to practice every day, coming in early, working on his game. He really bought into being in Tulsa. With us, he got to feel comfortable and gain some confidence. He's got a beautiful shot and he's not limited. He's very comfortable facing up.
"He's still a young guy. He's still trying to figure out who he is. If I were to tell you what he can and cannot do, in three years it might be way different. If he can focus on defense and rebounding, it's really going to help him."
We'll learn Thursday night if the Thunder adds more centers to its roster, but Mullens welcomes the competition.
"He's got a great personality and he's really upbeat about what's going on," Tibbetts said. "As a basketball player, you've always got guys trying to take your job."