Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he has not yet decided who will start at center for Wednesday night's exhibition game against Charlotte in Fayetteville, N.C.
"Good question," Brooks said after Monday's three-hour practice. "All the guys are giving us good, quality minutes in practice. It's open. Everybody's competing for the minutes."
Starter Nenad Krstic has yet to practice after having surgery on his right (shooting) index finger the week before training camp. Veteran power forward/center Nick Collison is out indefinitely with a bruised left knee. That leaves second-year player Byron Mullens and rookie Cole Aldrich as the candidates at center, although Brooks also mentioned forward Serge Ibaka.
TOUR DE KRSTIC
Krstic jokingly has said he never would have had surgery on his finger had he known he would have been required to do so much work on the exercise bike while observing practice.
"I feel sorry for Nenad," Mullens said. "He's on the sideline working out hard, looks like harder than we are. When he comes back, he's going to be ready to go."
Brooks said he stopped one workout, had all his players look over at Krstic pedaling away and asked him, "Would you rather be on the court working with us?" Krstic quickly responded, "Yes."
"He's down to a (small forward) weight," Brooks said. "He looks great, other than his finger."
Collison, meanwhile, has been rehabbing by doing a lot of swimming.
EXHIBITION GAME PLAN
When a team is essentially the same as a year ago, like the Thunder, does it alter a coach's game plan during exhibition season? Is it more about experimenting with different combinations?
"It's a combination of everything," Brooks said. "You definitely want to win. I think anytime you step out on the court, if it's an exhibition game or not, you have to step out there and compete and do whatever it takes to win the game."
Brooks said the starters will average between 18-24 minutes during the preseason.
"Our starters are not going to get a lot of minutes, but they're going to get minutes where they're going to get a good feel for the game," Brooks said.
Five days after Daequan Cook and James Harden knocked heads in practice and suffered concussion-like symptoms, Cook remains day-to-day for full contact in practice. Harden was cleared to return before Monday's practice.
According to Thunder officials, there is still no specific timetable as to when naming rights will be determined on the downtown arena.... Monday's three-hour practice session evidently wasn't long enough for point guard Tweety Carter, who immediately went to the stair-climbing machine for a feverish workout.... Practice ended a little early for Ibaka, who emerged from the locker room with ice taped to the top of his right thigh. Ibaka still kept his appointment for the Rolling Thunder Book Bus and a visit to third-graders at Mark Twain Elementary School.