Livingston eager to end season on NBA rosterPoint guard Shaun Livingston, who last week signed a contract to join the Tulsa 66ers, was quoted in Sunday’s editions of the Tulsa World as saying the severe knee injury he sustained in 2007 is 85 percent to 90 percent healed, and he’s looking forward to returning to the NBA this season. "I’ve just been ready for the opportunity to play,” Livingston said. "I want to play a couple of games and see where the health of my knee is. I want to be able to have some teams look at me and see where I am. I hope to finish out the year on an NBA roster.” Livingston, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, missed the final 26 games of 2006-07 and the entire 2007-08 season because of the knee injury. Although the Thunder owns the 66ers organization, Livingston, 23, would have to sign with the Thunder before he could join Oklahoma City.
BENCH PLAY, BALANCED SCORINGThe Thunder’s recent success can be attributed to better team play in the absence of leading scorers Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Improved team defense is the most noticeable difference, but Oklahoma City’s bench production has gotten better in each of the last five games as well. The Thunder’s bench scored 14 points against Memphis, 18 against Dallas, 19 against Washington, 23 at New Orleans and 27 against Philadelphia. In the past five games, no player has scored more than 27 points. In each of the five games before the most recent five, the Thunder had a player score 32 points or more. "When our guys get back, we’re going to continue to work on the same thing we’ve always preached, have good spacing, continue to move the ball, move without the ball and make sure the ball finds a good shot,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
DURANT, GREEN HUNGRY TO IMPROVEAsked if Durant and Green can learn valuable lessons while sidelined with injuries, Brooks said the two are representative of a team that has a passion to improve. "Our guys love the game,” Brooks said. "On days off, they come into the gym. On nights off, they’re watching NBA League Pass, no doubt. They talk about it in the locker room. They’re learning. Even when they’re not on the court, they’re definitely picking things up.” Green, who is recovering from a sore back, might return tonight after a four-game absence. Durant, recovering from a sprained right ankle, is expected to miss his sixth straight game. He could return Saturday at Phoenix.
THUNDER ELIMINATEDThe Thunder will not make the playoffs, even if it wins its final 19 games. A win tonight won’t mathematically eliminate Oklahoma City from finishing with the worst record, but a win would give it a four-game lead over Sacramento. BY DARNELL MAYBERRY AND MIKE BALDWIN