Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before Saturday's game against Phoenix that reserve shooting guard James Harden has “definitely earned the opportunity” to be a starter.
Brooks, however, said the abbreviated training camp didn't help Harden's cause entering this season and added that Harden's groin injury that caused him to miss nearly a week of practices both went into the decision to keep Thabo Sefolosha as the starter.
“He's fine where he's at,” Brooks said. “I look at him as a sixth starter. He's going to play enough minutes that he's going to help us win games. And he's fine with that. He's about the team and it's good to have that because he's good enough to start.”
Against Dallas on Thursday, Harden played 35 minutes while Sefolosha received 13. Brooks said he stuck with Harden that night because he felt the team needed his offense. Ordinarily, though, Brooks said 35 minutes is a little much for Harden.
“That position is tough,” Brooks said. “You have to produce offensively and you're guarding the best scorer. That takes a lot out of you. And we have a lot of games stacked up against each other.”
LOOKING TO MAINTAIN THE LEAD
In each of the first three games this season, the Thunder has led by double digits but was forced to fight late to hold onto the win.
The Thunder was ahead by 22 against Orlando on opening night before winning by eight, up 12 at Minnesota before winning by four and led by 12 at Memphis before winning by three.
“That's one of the tough things in this league,” Brooks said. “It's tough to go from 12 to 20. Not just our team, but the league in general you very rarely see 20-point blowouts. We have areas to improve on. I always look at if you can't score you better get a stop type of mentality. And we still have to keep working on that part of the game.
“Execution is a big part of every team in this league. We want to just keep getting a good shot and getting defensive stops. But it's hard to beat teams in this league and when you when you do you have to play well.”
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