With Perkins still on the mend for several more weeks, the Thunder's seven-game preseason schedule figures to serve as a proving ground for Aldrich, Thabeet and Orton.
Training camp begins Oct. 2, and OKC opens the regular season on Nov. 1 at San Antonio.
As long as Perkins is physically capable, he's the starter, and he let that be known after a Thunder Fit clinic at Deer Creek Middle School last Wednesday.
“We're all teammates, but at the end of the day, the center position over here is mine and that's the way we're going to keep it,” said Perkins, wearing a brace on his left wrist. “Any other way, backup minutes or whatever they want to go about, that's their problem. Once I hit the court, I'm going to make it known — and it's going to be known — that that's mine.
“It's no beef, but at the end of the day, that's what it is.”
Though only 27, Perkins is entering his 10th NBA season. He became the Boston Celtics' regular starting center at age 21.
“It's going to be interesting,” Perkins said of the battle to be his reserve. “Guys are really going to be battling for minutes. We've got a lot of talent.”
Based on 36 minutes per game, Thabeet's career averages are a respectable 7.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots. That's comparable to Perkins' career averages of 9.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes.
Trouble is, Thabeet has only averaged 10.3 minutes in 135 career games, which is why his averages sit at 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks.
“I'm happy with what I can do any time I step out there,” Thabeet said. “I'm not worrying about anything I can't control. What I can control is to work hard, be a good teammate, listen to the coaches and come in ready to work.”
From the outside looking in, Thabeet said he viewed the Thunder as “a bunch of young, talented guys who like to compete. I like to compete.”
Thabeet said he is confident he can contribute to the Thunder.
“Oh definitely,” said a smiling Thabeet. “I'm young (25) and getting better every day. I've got a ways to go. I'm not where I want to be yet and only time will tell.”
Thabeet's sheer mass fits well into the Thunder's defense-minded approach.
“As a young player, at 25 years old, he's really just beginning,” Presti said in July. “We've always looked at everybody's body of work and how we feel like our organization can put them in positions to be successful. Clearly, we feel like there's an opportunity to impact Hasheem's development, but that's going to be a process.”
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Thunder reserve center Hasheem Thabeet ranks among the tallest players in NBA history at 7-foot, 3 inches. A look the big guys:
7 feet, 7 inches: Gheorghe Muresan (1993-2000); Manute Bol (1985-94)
7 feet, 6.55 inches: Slavko Vranes (2004)
7 feet, 6 inches: Shawn Bradley (1993-2005); Yao Ming (2002-11)
7 feet, 5 inches: Chuck Nevitt (1982-93); Pavel Podkolzin (2004-06)
7 feet, 4 inches: Mark Eaton (1982-93); Rik Smits (1988-2000); Ralph Sampson (1983-92); Priest Lauderdale (1996-98)
7 feet, 3 inches: Randy Breuer (1983-93); Keith Closs (1997-2000); Swede Halbrook (1960-62); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (1997-2011); Aleksander Radojevic (1999-2000; 2004-05); Peter John Ramos (2004-05); Arvydas Sabonis (1995-2003); Ha Seung-Jin (2005-06); Hasheem Thabeet (2009-present)