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Thunder's big men have a chance to shine

With starting center Kendrick Perkins recovering from injury, Cole Aldrich, Daniel Orton and Hasheem Thabeet will see plenty of preseason minutes, giving them a chance to battle for the backup job.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 2, 2012

The Thunder is missing its starting center and is in need of a few capable bodies to replace the injured Kendrick Perkins.

“If I have to, I'll do it,” joked Kevin Durant following the first practice of the Thunder's 2012-13 season on Tuesday.

Fortunately, other options are available, so the franchise player won't have to mix it up in the paint this preseason. But just how capable those other options are is the question.

Cole Aldrich, Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton will get plenty of chances to showcase their skills once the preseason schedule begins.

“It's a great opportunity,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We don't want Perk to be out, and he's going to work on his conditioning every day. But the opportunity for Cole, Daniel and Thabeet to play those minutes is going to be important for them. They're going to get a great opportunity. I like what I saw (Tuesday). They're all fighting for that opportunity.”

Perkins underwent surgery in mid-July to repair a ligament tear in his left wrist. The operation called for a three-month healing process, putting his estimated recovery at Oct. 11. But the Thunder's plan is to ease Perkins back in rather than rush him into the lineup. The stated goal is to have Perkins ready by the regular-season opener.

That gives the three backups a chance.

“It's a good opportunity for one of those guys to step up and fill that role,” Brooks said.

Aldrich, the third-year man out of Kansas, is the unquestioned front-runner for the backup job behind Perkins. The Thunder traded up to get Aldrich at the 11th overall spot in the 2010 draft, and in two years Aldrich has played in only 44 games. His time has come. But Brooks expressed belief in all three centers.

“They all have the skill set to be effective in this league,” Brooks said. “Cole has to work on what he does well. He's a great screener, a roller, an offensive-rebounder and a rim protector. Thabeet and Daniel, I'm still getting to know their game.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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