Future opponents might want to take extra precautions when they're about to play the Thunder. OKC (10-2) has had a steady stretch of facing teams with injured players.
That list potentially grew Thursday night when New York All-Star Carmelo Anthony rolled his right ankle at Memphis and is considered doubtful for Saturday's 7 p.m. game against the Thunder inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Anthony, who also has a sprained left wrist, told the New York Post he will need “a miracle” to suit up against OKC.
Coach Mike D'Antoni said Bill Walker would start in Anthony's place. Teammate Jared Jeffries hasn't played since Christmas Day because of a calf injury but is expected to return against the Thunder.
OKC plays at Boston on Monday. The Celtics were healthy heading into Friday night's home game against Chicago, but given the Thunder's string of good fortune, they might want to keep a watchful eye on the welfare of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, et al.
After Boston, the Thunder plays at Washington on Wednesday – Maurice Evans (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (hand) – and at New Jersey on Jan. 21 – Brook Lopez (foot) and Damon James (foot/ankle).
Before Thursday's loss at Memphis, the Knicks (6-5) had won four straight to stabilize themselves after a 2-4 start.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said the slow start was forgivable. “You have an adjustment period and try to figure everything out,” Brooks said. “Coach D'Antoni is a very good coach, and it takes time. It's new guys figuring out ways to work everybody in. … You can't expect them to click on all cylinders in two weeks of training camp and with games back-to-back.
“They're a talented team. They're going to be right there at the end of the season.”
Asked if Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler comprised the best frontcourt in the league, Brooks said: “They're up there. I don't know if they're the best, but they definitely have a very talented front line. They've got the scorers, and they've got the defender in Tyson. Stoudemire can score in different areas. Carmelo is a scoring machine.”
Brooks said he will prepare his team as if the injured Anthony will be ready to go. “I'm assuming that he's playing,” Brooks said.
Thunder shooting guard Daequan Cook has opted not to wear goggles he temporarily wore to help curtail nausea and dizziness after he returned from a bout with the flu.
Cook drained 4 of 5 3-pointers in the first half against Dallas on Dec. 29 before suddenly becoming ill shortly after halftime. He missed the next two games and returned wearing goggles to help combat eye sensitivity to light.
Before Cook got sick, he was 12 for 21 (.571) from 3-point range. Since his return, he has gone 4 for 20 (.200).
Cook said the goggles fogged up at times and constantly had to be adjusted, but what threw off his shooting more than anything was missing two games.
“As a shooter, sometimes missing a game or missing a day throws you off your rhythm,” Cook said Friday. “The most important thing for me was getting back into a rhythm.”
Cook did some extra shooting on Thursday, ignoring a rare day off for the Thunder.
Adding to Cook's frustration has been his recent inability to convert wide-open looks.
“James (Harden), KD (Kevin Durant) and those guys draw so much attention, I'm getting more open looks,” Cook said. “It's kind of surprising.”
The Thunder's next back-to-back won't be until Feb. 6-7 at Portland and at Golden State. OKC plays 18 back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-back this season.
So far the Thunder is 4-1 on opening night of a back-to-back and 5-1 on the second or third night. OKC has swept four back-to-backs and was swept by Dallas and Portland for its only two losses of the season.
The Thunder and Chicago are the only NBA teams so far this season to sweep a back-to-back-to-back series.
OKC had 17 back-to-backs last season and went 13-4 on the first night, 10-7 on the second night and had seven sweeps.
Lloyd Aldrich, the grandfather of Thunder reserve center Cole Aldrich, died Thursday afternoon at age 83. Aldrich visited his grandfather on Monday and Tuesday in Minneapolis and rejoined the team in New Orleans. Aldrich participated in Friday's practice.
MULLENS, ROBINSON EXCEL
Center Byron Mullens and point guard Nate Robinson have thrived since leaving the Thunder.
The 7-foot Mullens, who was traded Dec. 19 to Charlotte for a 2013 second-round pick, made his first start Thursday night and is averaging 20.5 minutes, 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 92.6 percent (25 for 27) from the free-throw line.
Robinson, who was waived the day before the season opener, has averaged 32.5 minutes, 14.5 points, 4.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in four games since being signed by the Golden State Warriors.