DENVER — On the eve of Sports Illustrated's NBA Preview hitting the newsstands, none of the magazine's cover boys even stepped on the court during the Thunder's 130-115 exhibition loss Tuesday night against Denver.
Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic made the cover of the popular publication, accompanied with the headline "THUNDER BALL."
Durant is pictured front and center, with Sefolosha and Krstic flanking him in the background. Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green are not on the cover, but the Thunder's starting five is spread across two pages inside.
Sefolosha and Krstic have Durant to thank for making the cover.
"Thabo and Nenad, people don't really get to talk about them too much for some odd reason, so it was good to have them on there with me," Durant said. "They're guys we have to have on this team, so I wanted everybody to know how important they are to us and how great of teammates they are. I was happy to have a chance to voice my opinion and I'm glad Sports Illustrated put them on the cover with me."
Durant said he spoke with SI officials and told them if they didn't put Sefolosha and Krstic on the cover then they wouldn't be allowed to use Durant on the cover, either.
"Basically, I had to say it like that," Durant confirmed. "Everybody knows about Jeff and Russell and James (Harden), but not too many people know about Nenad and Thabo and they're a big part of this team."
Green was the only regular to start against the Nuggets, finishing a game-high 29 points before a crowd of 13,549 inside the Pepsi Center. "We battled," Green said. "We stuck to our stuff, ran our stuff and I think that was the biggest thing for tonight."
Joining Green as starters were James Harden, Byron Mullens, Eric Maynor and D.J. White. Off the bench came Daequan Cook, Elijah Millsap, Royal Ivey, Morris Peterson and Jerome Dyson.
The makeshift lineup bears no resemblance to the nine-player rotation coach Scott Brooks will use during the regular season. Millsap and Dyson presumably are bound for the NBA Development League.
Brooks shook his head while searching for something he liked with Tuesday's result.
"It wasn't a pretty game for us," Brooks said. "I liked the fact we competed offensively. We did move the ball around pretty good ... We were playing so many different lineups. Smalls were playing at the big spots. We were a little confused, but it wasn't the players' fault. They were never in this position all of training camp.
"We're a defensive team and we didn't compete defensively tonight."
Expecting a good defensive effort from such an odd mix of players might have been expecting too much against one of the league's most explosive teams. "You want to expect it (good defense) and you talk about it," Brooks said, "but we had a lot of different guys in there playing, but they still know our system.
Thunder Graces The SI NBA Preview Cover