Sigh. Training camp would be starting today. Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world. Not necessarily a marquee day or some kind of landmark that we all had marked on our calendars. But at the very least, it signaled the start of the 2011-12 season. Once training camp starts, we start seeing our favorite players again, we start getting preseason games and before you know it, we’re watching a real life game that counts.
Alas. The lockout has postponed the start of training camps for who knows how long and is threatening the entire season. But since our current hook is that the Thunder would be rolling into their practice facility, the question is, what would be the storylines we’re most looking forward to? Here are 10, because it’s a round number.
How healthy is Perk? He’s said he’s feeling healthy and that he’ll be shedding his two massive knee braces. He pledged to come in with less weight and in a lot better shape that he was last season. While I trust that’s the case, you still have to wonder exactly how healthy Perk really is. I mean, are we talking about this Perk? Or just a slightly improved version of what we saw in the postseason?
Plus, keep in mind that Perk didn’t have a training camp last season because he was still rehabbing. So he’ll be getting a full tilt (or two weeks, depending on this stupid lockout) to get his body ready and prepare for the long haul.
The battle for 2. This is what everyone will be watching. James Harden or Thabo Sefolosha? Thabo Sefolosha or James Harden? Who’s it going to be? I think we all know who it should be, but Scott Brooks is a bit stubborn.
My questions are: Is it Harden’s job to lose? Is it going to be Harden’s regardless? Is it an open competition? If Harden gets it, is Thabo expendable? It’s clearly the main storyline to watch for in training camp, whenever that may happen.
KD’s post game. It’s supposed to be the key element of Durant’s next evolution. But if you remember, during training camp and the preseason last year there was an experiment with KD at point guard. Didn’t exactly work out. This time around, the focus is supposed to be Durant’s evolving post game.
Now here’s the thing about it though: KD quietly already has a pretty nice one, he just doesn’t use it that much. Durant on a baseline is absolutely lethal spinning off his right shoulder and shooting over a defender. It’s just about expanding on that and having the confidence to use it more often. Because give Durant a quality post game that he can get three or four buckets from in a game, and you’re talking about taking an insanely efficient player and making him into an undefendable nightmare.
The 4,500 questions about Westbrook-Durant or Westbrook-Perk clashes. So excited about that, whenever it happen. Especially for when someone asks Westbrook, “Do you and Perk get along?” and Westbrook answers, “Definitely, definitely.” And then he answers every following question, “Definitely, definitely.”
A full camp with Serge Ibaka as the starting power forward. Keep in mind that Ibaka entered last season’s camp with questions like, “Is he a backup center or power forward?” lingering over him. Now, the job’s all his. He’s getting 30 minutes a night, for a full season. He walks into day one of training camp knowing he’s a starter and for a young developing player, that type of thing feels good.
Cole Aldrich’s development. I guess I should preface that with, “if there is any.” Aldrich had an odd rookie season, especially for a lottery guy. He wasn’t a bust by any means because the Thunder were willing to let him progress at his own pace. But let’s be honest here: When OKC moved up to get him 11th from the Hornets, I think we all expected him to be a guy that would at least play a little during the regular season. Instead, Aldrich spent most his time on I-44 between OKC and Tulsa or at the end of the Thunder’s bench. Has he improved enough to at least push Nazr Mohammed a bit?
Nine, or 10-man rotation? This is something that likely won’t be settled until December and even then, it’s subject to change. Scott Brooks has always preferred a shorter bench, but expanded his rotation out to a solid 10, with it sometimes going to 11. But does Daequan Cook — if re-signed — walk into training camp in the rotation or does he have to earn his spot? Any chance Nate Robinson cracks it? Where does Reggie Jackson fit into it? Is he a third point guard or a scoring 2 off the bench?
Reggie Jackson. I just mentioned Jackson in the rotation thing, but I’m pretty psyched to see his ability. Because other than some slick YouTube highlights, he’s mostly a mystery. He didn’t work out for anyone, didn’t participate in the combine and with no Summer League, nobody’s really seen him play much.
KD’s backup. Is it Thabo? A free agent? Backup by committee? Would Scott Brooks just consider playing three guards? The backup situation for KD isn’t nearly as important as we sometimes act like — I mean, we’re talking about a guy that plays 5-10 minutes a game — but it something that’s missing. Having a quality player to play behind Durant would be nice. Especially if that guy could shoot and score. Is he on the roster already or is that a piece Sam Presti should be looking to add?
Westbrook’s 3-point shot. It was something that slowly came on towards the end of last season. Did you know: Russell Westbrook shot 42 percent (23-55) from January to the end of the season from 3. That would rank him 12th in the league. I don’t think Westbrook’s becoming some kind of sharpshooter by any means and I’d be impressed if he could sustain a season of over 30 percent with 150 attempts or so, but that is certainly an evolution he’s working on. Westbrook realizes like all of us that if he can consistently knock down 3s, there’s no possible way to guard him.