The Thunder beat the Mavericks 87-83 in the second and final preseason tuneup. Here are a few thoughts:
1. Color me impressed by Reggie Jackson. He got early minutes tonight and while his first shot barely hit the backboard, he stepped up with his second and drained it. He wasn’t shy to make plays and twice created opportunities on fast breaks. Good handle, smart passing and he clearly understood his role on the floor. I’m not sure if he’s going to be able to actually crack the rotation this season, but he’s definitely a quality bench piece to have going forward. You can see why Sam Presti liked him so much.
2. Cole Aldrich might beat out Nazr Mohammed at some point in the rotation. He looks 100 percent better. He doesn’t have near the offensive game Mohammed has, but defensively Aldrich is active everywhere. He never stops challenging shots and tries to rebound everything. And he even showed off a legit sky hook (and made it!) late in the fourth.
3. Again, Perk is a whole new player. Exploding at the rim for dunks, making a big difference on the offensive glass and even putting the ball on the floor and finishing on dribble drives. But he’s still the same old Perk when it comes to the nastiness. He picked up his first technical of what will be many of the season by walking and bumping Brendan Haywood for apparently no reason at all. New body, same old Perk.
4. This was Ibaka’s first crack at defending Dirk since the Western Finals and it looked like he was trying to take more of a ball denial approach. Ibaka also tried to use the Nick Collison strategy of crowd Dirk and just hoping the official didn’t have an itchy whistle. It worked pretty well as Ibaka actually blocked one of Dirk’s unblockable fadeaway jumpers.
5. Harden looks so much better to me. I don’t think anyone got more out of the summer of charity games than Harden. He’s always struck me as a guy that needs a self-confidence in his own game to succeed and he’s playing with the swagger his beard demands. He looks like he knows he’s good. The midrange game is there, he’s finishing at the rim, creating and isn’t shy about taking an open shot. Everyone saw his potential last season, but I think he’s realizing it.
6. It’s very likely that Ryan Reid will get the Thunder’s last roster spot. The organization likes his grit and hustle. It’s probably why that Byron Mullens deal was done. The Thunder need that roster spot to give to Reid. If OKC doesn’t keep him, they forfeit the rights to him because he was in training camp. And I don’t think they want to do that. (That means Nate Robinson’s situation will need to be solved before Thursday too though.)
7. Kevin Durant busted out another new move in the post. This one was a nice spin move off Shawn Marion’s hair with a half step stop into a full step at the rim. He finished with a long, scooping layup. Pretty stuff.
8. Look at the balance in the box score. Nobody scored more than 13 (Harden led the way), with everyone scoring that played. KD only had 10 but just took nine shots. Westbrook 12 on just eight attempts. It was a spread out game.
9. Nick Collison mixed it up with Lamar Odom late in the third after Odom took exception to a hard Collison pick on tiny little Jerome Randle and then Collison took exception to that exception. Odom came hard at Collison, shoved him and started talking. Collison shoved back and gave a very loud and clear “F— YOU” in Odom’s face. Even after the quarter ended Odom was still talking to the Thunder bench as he walked to his. Obviously Odom was trying to make a statement to his new teammates, but it was a weird way to do it.
10. Daequan Cook, 1-11 from 3. Ouch.
11 . The Thunder looked tuned up and ready for Sunday’s opener. There’s still some rust here and there, but they were completely keyed up for this game against Dallas. These guys are seriously focused. It’s Dec. 20 and the Thunder played like it was. This wasn’t some October preseason game to them. They were locked in on both ends, communicating, hustling, rebounding and pushing for everything. I’m still not entirely sure where this teams stands, but they certainly look ready for the season.