First, the very crucial important part: the Blue defeated the White 57-53 in Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Yukon High School. The coaches said the game wouldn’t just be some kind of All-Star type affair with alley oops and behind-the-back passes. And they were right. It was an intense game from the outset with most of that coming on both defensive ends.
But here are some observations from the night and two very amateur videos for your enjoyment:
- First, the fans. Good grief. Yukon High School’s gym has a capacity of 2,200 and there were hundreds of people standing around the concourse because they ran out of seats. And the gym filled up so much that they actually had to turn people away and hand out vouchers to try and make up for it. Consider last year’s open scrimmage where the gym was probably about half full and compare it to this. I think you could say this team is having a major impact on this city.
- Of the non-roster training camp invites, the guy that made the most of an impression was Elijah Millsap. That guy can play some defense. He jumped three passing lanes and on consecutive possessions stole a pass and finished with a dunk on the other end. He’s only 6’5 or so, but he defended Kevin Durant most of the night and actually did a pretty nice job. I’m not saying he’s going to make this roster, but so far, if anyone has a leg up, I’d say it’s him.
- Serge Ibaka showed off a pretty confident stroke that extended out to around 20 feet. He made a 3, but it was a shot clock buzzer beater that was kind of chunked up there. But his jumper looks smooth and confident. There’s definitely a chance he’s used in more pick-and-pop situations this season.
- No player looks more improved both physically and in terms of ability than Byron Mullens. He looks way stronger and has a pretty built upper body now. And he’s finally figuring out how to use his massive 7’1 frame. He ran the floor really well, didn’t hover around the college 3-point line and was actually battling inside on the glass and in the post. I’m convinced he has a chance to be something. His physical gifts are outrageous for a man his size and once things start coming together, he could be a legit rotation guy.
- Four players didn’t play tonight: James Harden, Daequan Cook, Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic. Harden and Cook bumped heads in practice on Wednesday and have been taking it easy since then.
- Not much to report in the Kevin Durant spectrum other than he’s still awesome at basketball.
- One game I like to play with my wife when we’re watching a sporting event live where she doesn’t know any of the players is I ask her before the game starts who she thinks are the best players. (She knows all the Thunder players obviously, but I’m going somewhere with this.) It’s kind of a way to gauge who looks good compared to who actually is good. On the Thunder, Russell Westbrook definitely looks the part. Same goes for Kevin Durant. They have a look to them that catches your eye even if you had no idea who they are. But if there was going to be a draft with only the Thunder roster and it was based on who looked good, Cole Aldrich would definitely be the last pick. He looks so awkward and unorthodox out there.
- BUT, Aldrich looked very good tonight in a basketball sense. He didn’t get one touch on the block, but you can tell he has an absolutely nose for the ball on the glass. He’s a natural rebounder. Every shot that went up, Aldrich either got a hand on the rebound or was at least fighting for it. He’s a lot like Kevin Love in that he just figures out how to get in good position. I wanted to see a little more of him offensively, but that’ll come later.
- D.J. White is just automatic from 10-15 feet. He seriously does not miss.
- Jeff Green had a massive dunk tonight off a Westbrook pass. It really was something else. Green attempted probably six or seven 3s though, hitting maybe three. He seemed to hover a bit around the outside.
- The Thunder’s “official” DJ was there tonight and I really wish he’d come up with something to say other than “MAKE SOME NOIIIIIIIIIIISE!!!!” 50 times. But maybe that’s just me.
Preseason games are right around the corner and while this was a completely meaningless scrimmage, it was impressive how hard the team played for an hour. Guys dove on the floor, played intense defense and were focused all around. There was some sloppy play here and there and it didn’t look like they ran an offensive set every time down. But it was definitely a fun night and the turnout was tremendous.
The Thunder’s first preseason game is Oct. 6 at Charlotte.