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By all appearances, Cole Aldrich is going to find himself in a much more prominent and important role this season.
That’s mildly to moderately terrifying to some Thunder fans, especially after a lackluster performance in Orlando at Summer League.
“He didn’t play great,” Scott Brooks said after practice Monday. “But the summer is there to get better and improve. It’s what you do all summer long. It’s not what you do for the two weeks or the five games. We’ll see how he plays the rest of camp and the exhibition season. I put a little weight into the Summer League but not now. I put it in at that time because that was the most important time was that time. But now that training camp has started, that’s so far behind us.”
Here’s Aldrich’s take on his Summer League performance: “I wasn’t at all. It was my first Summer League,” he said. “The first game I played 35 minutes. I don’t know when the last time I played 35 minutes was. It’s just a time when you can assess yourself a little, and it’s not about scoring points or doing spectacular things. It’s about doing the little things — setting good screens, guarding pick and rolls, doing stuff like that that’s really going to make a difference.”
In theory, the backup big slot behind Kendrick Perkins is up for grabs with Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton battling Aldrich for time. But it’s Aldrich’s job to lose. He said at media day that in his mind the position was open still, but that’s just because he has to prove himself.
“I don’t feel no pressure myself,” Aldrich said. “I come in every day and work hard. I’ve gotten a lot better and that’s all you can do.”
I’ve said it before but you have to take into account the role Aldrich will play. A spot backup center playing between five and 15 minutes a game. His job won’t be to put up double-doubles or be a reliable post scorer. He needs to rebound, set screens, defend pick-and-rolls and just quietly do his job, three or four minutes at a time. How many times did you say, “Man, Nazr Mohammed is killing it out there!” last season? Because that’s the job of a guy in that role: Do your best to go mostly unnoticed, because it means you’re doing OK.
Now, Aldrich has the potential to be an impact bench guy. He’s a high energy player that runs the floor well and has nice instincts on the glass. Maybe he puts more of a nightly stamp on the game than Mohammed. First though, he has to win the job. Which means he’s already a little more behind than was expected.