Paris Lawson

By Paris Lawson | Digital Content Reporter | [email protected]

For the first time this season, the Thunder will face an opponent that is not in a Thunder jersey. In Tulsa’s BOK Center, the Thunder will don their official game threads as they face the Dallas Mavericks in the opening game of the Thunder preseason.

After a long week of training camp and a preseason inter-team scrimmage, the Thunder is looking forward to going up against a new opponent and putting their hard work to the test. The first six days together, the team has had plenty of time to play against each other during practice. The prospect to play someone a little different as a team offers an opportunity to learn in a new setting what this team needs to work on as training camp continues.

“Yesterday’s scrimmage was great and all, but tomorrow is going to be a big challenge for us. It’s going to be the first time that we as a collective group go up against another set with a whole different set of coaches trying to scheme for us. It’s going to be a challenge, but it will be good for us as we go into the regular season with a great mindset that we’re just going to play our game and do our best,” said Thunder center, Nerlens Noel.

The Thunder will go up against a Mavericks team led by 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic and NBA All-Star big man in Kristaps Porzingis. This Dallas roster will serve as a litmus test of sorts to see how Thunder players can generate on both ends of the floor.

“They're going to be obviously a really, really skilled team. They'll be a very, very good shooting team. So, I think our defense will be tested. And then I think from us, offensively, what kind of shots can we generate? But I just think in a normal NBA game, you get tested in a lot of different ways. And, we'll certainly get tested tomorrow, in a lot of different ways,” said Donovan.

With a new look to the Thunder roster, training camp offered chances for new and returning players to spend quality time on the floor every day leading up to Sunday’s Blue and White Scrimmage which unveiled different strategies being tested such as utilizing bigs like Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel at the top of the key to facilitate offense. This led to open threes and back cut opportunities for versatile additions like Danilo Gallinari, Darius Bazley, and Mike Muscala.

“It’s pretty much just quarterbacking the gym,” said Noel. “Being that five man, you have a lot of responsibility in that type of offense to create offense and get guys open. To find movers, cutters and making reads. It’s a really an offense where guys can play off of each other and create open shots for one another. I think as we continue to do that and get acclimated to each other, it will be easier to run this offense,” said Noel.

New faces are still acclimating to tendencies and adjusting to a new system. Yesterday’s Blue and White Scrimmage served as a step forward in discovering this team’s identity in terms of communication and competitiveness which have been key focal points throughout training camp. Sunday’s scrimmage showed that identity was taken to heart with constant chirping and competitive bouts on the block and over screens. The next step – establishing an offensive and defensive identity with the number of new weapons added to the roster.

“We definitely just want to get looks and see what we need to get better at. So early in the season, every team in this league is trying to figure out what their identity is. We have a lot of new faces, different skills so we just have to find out what we are really good at and what we need to get better at,” said Noel.

Player combinations will continue to get shuffled as preseason unfolds and players grow within a new system. Sunday’s Blue and White Scrimmage showed a starting lineup of Dennis Schroder, Chris Paul, Darius Bazley, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams on one team with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo starting on the opposing team. With six days of practice under their belt, the Thunder will continue to test various combinations to find the most effective lineup moving forward.

“We've played a lot the first five days that we've been together, so I think it'll be good to play someone a little different, you know, play together as a whole team,” said Donovan. “Because of the number of people in training camp, we've kind of had three teams of five and rotated different combinations of players. But it'll be good to just see where we're at and find a way to continue to get better and try to grow from this first game.”

Tuesday’s preseason game will be streamed on the Thunder App and okcthunder.com at 7 p.m. CT.

Click here for Game Notes.

Back to okcthunder.com

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