OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from scrimmage against Celtics
The Thunder beat the Celtics 98-84 in its first scrimmage before the NBA restart.
The score was meaningless, but plenty of things were learned from OKC’s first game in more than four months.
Here are five takeaways:
Andre Roberson received a standing ovation from the Thunder bench when he checked in with 5:33 left in the third quarter. The work Roberson put in to return from a 909-day break was recognized by his teammates — few of which had ever played with him.
“Man, it was a lot of emotions,” Roberson said. “Anxious, happy, just overly ecstatic just to get back out there on that floor and hear Coach call my name to get into the game.”
Though just a scrimmage, it was Roberson’s first competitive game since rupturing the patellar tendon in his left knee Jan. 27, 2018.
Roberson played 12 minutes — all in the second half — and was not under a minutes restriction, coach Billy Donovan said.
Roberson showed some of the skills Thunder fans remember. He deflected a pass for a steal, and pinned a shot against the backboard for a block.
He buried a corner 3-pointer, one of two long-range attempts, and the Thunder bench erupted. Chris Paul threw his hands up and looked like he wanted to storm the court.
Fresh off the farm
Steven Adams spent time on his New Zealand farm during the break from basketball. The Thunder center joked (maybe) that he stayed in shape by boxing out cows.
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Adams looked fresh, which is rarely the case for the bruising big man. Adams scored 17 points with seven rebounds in 15 first-half minutes. He had a highlight spin and dunk along the baseline and gobbled up garbage points around the rim.
“He has done a great job with his conditioning,” Donovan said. “I think being back in New Zealand, he really kept himself in great shape. And I think for a lot of players his size, that can be really challenging.”
Donovan even scripted a 3-point attempt for Adams on the first possession. The shot was short, but it was at least a fun start to an inconsequential game. Don’t expect to see Adams shooting threes once the regular season resumes.
Adams, Paul and Danilo Gallinari rested for the entire second half.
Luguentz Dort started the game alongside the regular cast of Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Gallinari and Adams.
Donovan hadn’t committed to Dort starting, but expect Dort to remain in the starting lineup when the regular season resumes Aug. 1.
The wing rotation behind Dort was interesting. Hamidou Diallo played six minutes in the first half. Diallo checked in before Roberson, Abdel Nader and Terrance Ferguson, who didn’t play until the fourth quarter.
All of those players are competing for the same minutes.
“I wouldn’t really read too much into that,” Donovan said of the wing rotation. “You’re trying to give guys a decent amount of time to play, and instead of looking to try to play everybody, you just try to throw some different combinations out there.”
Games inside the Disney World bubble have the feel of Summer League, but with better players and in-game effects.
The court is sharp with “Black Lives Matter” spelled above the NBA logo.
Because the Celtics were the home team, video boards surrounding the court at Visa Athletic Center were lit up green with the Celtics logo.
The bench area is the biggest change from a normal game. Players and coaches sit in three spaced-out rows. Each player has a dedicated seat on the bench marked with a name tag.
Donovan and his coaching staff wore light blue polo shirts with a “Coaches for Social Justice” patch.
Backup center Nerlens Noel was the only Thunder player unavailable Friday. Donovan said he expects Noel to play in the second scrimmage Sunday against Philadelphia.
Abdel Nader went down late in the game with a head injury. Nader’s head snapped back and hit the court after a fall.
Donovan said Nader was going through concussion protocol after the game.