OKC Thunder: What to expect in first Orlando scrimmage
The Thunder’s first game after a 138-day break is labeled just like the last game it played: at Celtics.
Green-lit video boards might give the feel of a Boston home game, but the Visa Athletic Center at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex is no TD Garden.
Still, the NBA has returned, and the Thunder will resume play at 4 p.m. Friday in a scrimmage against the Celtics. It will be the first of three scrimmages for the Thunder before the regular season restart Aug. 1 against the Jazz.
“We’re playing against each other constantly, but we need to see different looks, we need to see different personnel, we need to see different things,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “These scrimmages are gonna be coming at a good time for us.”
The Thunder took Thursday off after practicing 12 of the previous 13 days. The team will have a Friday morning walkthrough before tip-off. All 16 players are expected to be available for the scrimmage.
“How those minutes get rolled out, and what we do having three of these kinds of preseason games before we start Aug. 1, we’ll evaluate that,” Donovan said. “But we plan to have an entire roster.”
An entire roster includes Andre Roberson. Every question leading up to the Thunder’s first scrimmage is overshadowed by one: Will Roberson play?
It’s been 30 months since Roberson last played — Jan. 27, 2018, when he ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee.
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After missing all of last season, and the first 64 games this season, the extended hiatus has given Roberson ample time to recover. The 28-year-old, once a top perimeter defender in the NBA, has been a full participant in practice since the Thunder arrived in Orlando. His availability for the scrimmages will be an indicator of if Roberson will play when the real games start.
The scrimmage Friday will consist of 10-minute quarters. The following two scrimmages — Sunday against Philadelphia and Tuesday against Portland — will be played with standard 12-minute quarters.
Expect both the Thunder and Celtics to experiment in the new setting.
“We’ll try to look at different players, different combinations of players, and then try to slowly amp up our guys to get ready to play once Aug. 1 gets here,” Donovan said.
Donovan said there will be minute restrictions on his players. The Celtics will be without starting point guard Kemba Walker, Boston coach Brad Stevens said Thursday.
Donovan and Stevens, two former college coaches, will likely connect before the scrimmage. The Thunder and Celtics will be on opposite sides of the playoff bracket, so there’s no competitive advantages to be lost Friday if they collaborate.
If the Celtics want to see a zone defense, or want to practice against a half-court trap, Donovan said he’d be willing to oblige.
“But at the same point too,” Donovan said, “I think everybody’s focused on their personnel, their team and getting their team ready to play.”
It’s been more than four months since the Thunder topped the Celtics 105-104 on March 8 in Boston. The stakes this time will be lower.
“We’ll learn a little more about ourselves after Friday,” Donovan said.
Thunder vs. Celtics
When: 4 p.m. Friday
Where: Visa Athletic Center, Orlando
TV: NBA TV (Cox 256)
Watch online: okcthunder.com, Thunder Mobile App
Radio: WWLS 98.1 FM