5 Things We Learned About OKC Thunder During First Week of Training Camp
The Oklahoma City Thunder are in London to continue their preseason tour, and there are a number of takeaways from their first week of training camp.
In their first preseason game, Kevin Durant looked great—what were you expecting?—and the young players all got the chance to play extended minutes.
Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson and Steven Adams all played well and showed signs of development, which is a good sign for a team trying to overcome the loss of their second-best player, Russell Westbrook, for the first month of the regular season.
Here are five things we learned about this year's version of the Thunder from their first week of training camp.
Russell Westbrook's Return Was Delayed
The news that has the biggest impact on the Thunder's season is that Russell Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee to clear up some loose stitches, as reported by ESPN.
He is expected to miss the first four-to-six weeks of the regular season according to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.
In the short term, this is a big blow for the Thunder as they were looking forward to getting Westbrook back as soon as possible. Furthermore, the Western conference playoff picture is very crowded and his absence might cause the Thunder to drop a couple of spots in the seeding.
Despite this, it could be a blessing in disguise. Firstly, the news broke early enough that the Thunder have enough time to plan around it—as opposed to the two-and-a-half days they had in the playoffs.
Moreover, it could result in an offense that revolves around more ball movement which would really help Oklahoma City's championship hopes.
Kendrick Perkins Dislocated a Finger
More injury news for Oklahoma City, but it doesn't look too serious. Perkins dislocated his left ring finger in the Thunder's first preseason game against Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul, Turkey.
Such an injury serves to remind us how much tougher than us Kendrick Perkins is. You can see him try to pop it back in himself on the court—while holding the ball that he was fighting for when he got the rebound.
Although there still hasn't been any official word on the injury, it shouldn't have a serious impact on Perkins or the Thunder. He left the game and didn't return, but it's highly unlikely that it causes him to miss any regular-season action and he will probably be back on the court soon.
It might just open up the door for Steven Adams, Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton to get more playing time, however, as the three big men battle it out to win the spot as the backup center.
Steven Adams Holds the Lead in the Backup Center Battle
Even if Perkins' injury isn't serious, it might be beneficial for the Thunder's development if he sits out for a few more games of the preseason. There is a three-man competition for the backup center spot, and giving the candidates more playing time will allow them to prove themselves.
Steven Adams, the 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft, got the most minutes at center in OKC's first preseason game and he started the second half after Perkins left with his finger injury.
He tallied seven points, six rebounds, five fouls and three turnovers in 15 minutes of action. That's not an awe-inspiring stat line, but he showed off a pretty good offensive touch around the basket.
He was considered more of a project during the draft process (subscription required), so any significant contributions he makes during this season would be a bonus. Regardless, he will get plenty of opportunities to earn playing time in the preseason, and he has shown some potential.
Jeremy Lamb Had a Good Start
Lamb got a game-high 31 minutes in the first preseason game and he played well in that time. He scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists while adding two steals and two blocks en route to a +18 plus/minus score (another game-high).
While it was just one preseason game, it was a good first performance from Lamb and it's something he can build off. He hit a few mid-range jumpers and showed the ability to fill up the box score.
Granted, it was against non-NBA competition. While Fenerbahce is one of the best teams in the Turkish league, they play a different style of basketball and don't possess the size or athleticism of NBA teams.
Lamb's next test will come against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, but it was a good start from the second-year swingman.
Reggie Jackson Was a Facilitator
While Russell Westbrook sits out, the keys to the Thunder offense will be handed to Reggie Jackson. He filled in admirably for Westbrook during the playoffs, and he did so again in the first preseason game.
He looked a little tentative offensively, not looking for his own shot as much, but he did a good job finding teammates and taking care of the ball. Jackson scored nine points, racked up five assists and only turned the ball over once.
Coach Brooks would no doubt want to see him be a little more aggressive with the ball in his hands, but the most important thing is that he can be trusted to handle it and initiate the offense.
The Thunder can't afford to have Kevin Durant doing everything for the team over the four-to-six weeks without Westbrook, and Jackson looks like he's ready to be a facilitator for the team.