Although Nick Collison has played his entire career with the Seattle/OKC franchise, he constantly has moved back and forth between positions.
Collison freely admits he prefers playing the power forward position (No. 4) rather than center (No. 5), but he definitely will be needed at the 5 this season for the Thunder.
“A lot of the league goes small, so we have Serge (Ibaka) as a 5,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We've had some success with Serge in the lineup, and Nick can play the 5. We're going to be covered there.”
Collison shrugged when asked if he envisioned having to play the 5 more frequently after losing center Cole Aldrich in Saturday's trade with Houston.
“It's up to coach,” Collison said. “I've done it my whole career. It seems like the majority of my career I've played the 5. Maybe it's just the way it's worked out. I'll do whatever. I prefer playing 4, but I prefer being on a better team. So if it helps us be a better team to play 5, then obviously that's what I want to do.”
Brooks is simply taking advantage of Collison's discipline and intelligence.
“Nick has a high basketball IQ. Most bigs don't,” Brooks said with a chuckle before adding, “I'm kidding. I never really liked bigs. It's a point-guard game. … Ahh, OK, that's my jab.”
Even with the intense focus on Saturday's trade, several involved parties have been ignored.
The trade wasn't a simple swap of James Harden in exchange for Kevin Martin. OKC also acquired rookie Jeremy Lamb and three future draft picks and to do so, the Thunder lost Aldrich, guard Daequan Cook and forward Lazar Hayward, three names that have barely been mentioned the past three days.
“When you have a trade like we had, the other guys get lost in the shuffle,” Brooks said. “When you have a close group like we had, it takes a while to understand what happened, and they all were good for us.”
CENTER OF IT ALL
The Thunder replaced Harden, a shooting guard, with another shooting guard. However, the only center in the deal was Aldrich, which puts added stress on OKC's lack of depth at the position.
“That hurts us, too,” said Collison, who often assisted Aldrich with offseason workouts at their alma mater of Kansas. “Cole put in a lot of work the last two years and had come a really long way, was playing well, but it's the way it goes. We'll have to get other guys to play — Hasheem (Thabeet), Perry (Jones III) and myself. We'll just have to figure it out. We've had the same team here for 2-3 years. Now it's a lot different.”
Also gone are three members of the Thunder's second unit.
“It's rare in the NBA to have a second team stick together,” Collison said. “Usually those spots come and go. With this new CBA, you're going to find more guys coming in for one-year deals. That's how the role players are going to be.”
HIGH ON HASHEEM
One reason Aldrich could be dealt was the emergence of the 7-foot-3 Thabeet during the preseason.
“With what Thabeet has shown the past 4-5 weeks, we feel confident that he can do a very good job for us,” Brooks said. “He's shown a lot of toughness for us, the ability to protect the basket and he's athletic. He can move around pretty good for a guy his size.”
Thabeet averaged 5.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 16.0 minutes in five preseason appearances.
Because Martin excels at the two-man game, Collison was asked if he might pass to Martin more than Martin passes to him. Collison smiled and said: “Over my 10 years, I've passed to guys more than they've passed to me. I don't think that'll be much different.”