The Thunder surprised many when they traded star sixth man James Harden to the Rockets right before the 2012/13 season start. Serge Ibaka was awarded a 4-year, $48MM contract earlier in the summer of 2012 and tells Jeff Caplan at the NBA’s Hang Time Blog that he’s worked on his ball handling and offensive game this season.
After Russell Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus against the Rockets in last year’s opening round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Thunder struggled without their playmaking point guard. Kevin Durant had to carry a heavier offensive burden, and Ibaka’s play suffered without Westbrook to alleviate defensive pressure.
The Thunder will need Ibaka to inherit a more substantial offensive workload to begin this season with Westbrook expected to miss the first couple of months recovering from a second surgery to fix issues stemming from the original surgery on his meniscus.
Here are some notes from around the Western Conference tonight:
- With Westbrook out, there are concerns about how much Durant will have to do for the Thunder to survive Westbrook’s absence in the first part of the season. Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman tweets that head coach Scott Brooks says KD will play between 38-40 minutes this season.
- Mayberry adds, via Twitter, that no player within the last 9 seasons has gone on to win a title after logging more than 3000 minutes in the regular season, but Brooks doesn’t place much stock in that info.
- Dee Bost, Richard Howell and E.J. Singler are likely headed to the Blazers’ D-League affiliate after camp, according to Gino Pilato of D-League Digest. That’s no surprise, since they’re the only three players on Portland’s roster without fully guaranteed deals.
- New Kings coach Michael Malone says rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum are making the most of their minutes during the preseason (Twitter).
- Malone also said, via the Kings‘ official Twitter account, that playing defense as a cohesive 5-man group is the key for this year’s Kings team to be successful.
- The Clippers Blake Griffin will play tonight against the Jazz after suffering a bruised knee in practice on Tuesday, reports ESPN LA. MRI results showed no structural damage and Griffin returned to practice on Friday.