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News » Oklahoma City Thunder Getting Inside 2008-10-18

Oklahoma City Thunder Getting Inside 2008-10-18

Oklahoma City Thunder Getting Inside 2008-10-18
The Thunder's head coach doesn't have any illusions about what's in store during the team's first season in Oklahoma City. The team formerly known as the Sonics is likely in for an expansion-like year.

"We've got a lot of work to do," P.J. Carlesimo said near the end of preseason. "We've made a lot of progress defensively. At times we look like a good defensive team. We certainly don't look like a good offensive team."

The exhibition reviews haven't been easy to stomach, but Carlesimo isn't eating off an empty plate. He's working with last year's rookie combo of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Not a bad place to start.

Durant worked on adding strength and bulk to his slight 6-9 frame over the offseason. The 2007-08 Rookie of the Year averaged 20.3 points, but only 4.4 rebounds. A little more muscle should help the latter number. Green, a fellow All-Rookie first teamer, averaged nearly 11 points and five boards. He spent the break working on his jumper, especially from beyond the arc.

A promising trend from last season was the strong finish of the former first-round picks. Instead of fading down the stretch, as many rookies do, Durant and Green hit another gear in April. Durant averaged 24.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in the season's final month, while Green was good for 15.6 and 6.3.

Understandably, Oklahoma City's front office went after veteran help this summer. The haul included swingman Desmond Mason and forward Joe Smith. Mason knows the area, having starred at Oklahoma State and having played for the Hornets during their OKC stay. His career scoring average is 12.5. Smith has enjoyed a solid 13-year career.

"With Desmond, we really feel strongly about his toughness," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. "It kind of feeds into the identity that we're trying to build with our team. And with Joe, he adds depth to the frontline, and ability to shoot the ball. And both of them again are going to add some stability and leadership to the young core that we have in place."

The young core adds fourth overall pick Russell Westbrook. Carlesimo views the point guard as a future standout. Nick Collison, another former first rounder, is a versatile frontcourt piece who nearly averaged a double-double last season.

COACHING STAFF: Head Coach -- P.J. Carlesimo, 8th year overall, 2nd with the Thunder (203-284). Assistants -- Paul Westhead, Scott Brooks, Mark Bryant, Ralph Lewis.

LAST SEASON, REMEMBERED: 20-62 (5th in Northwest).

THIS SEASON, PREDICTED: 24-58 (4th in Northwest).

POSSIBLE CHANGES, PREDICTED: Carlesimo could be in trouble if the Thunder sputters even more than expected. An extended losing streak could be his downfall. Though he won't open the season as a starter, expect the quarterbacking duties to be turned over to rookie Russell Westbrook at some point.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 18, 2008


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