West­brook, An­thony re­main ques­tion­able

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

Rus­sell West­brook didn’t prac­tice on Satur­day.

That doesn’t mean the Thun­der guard was in­ac­tive.

“He’s not a guy that likes to sit still very much,” Thun­der coach Billy Dono­van said af­ter Satur­day’s prac­tice.

So West­brook was en­gaged. He en­cour­aged team­mates from the side­line, Dono­van said. He did some strength and mo­bil­ity work on the sprained left an­kle that caused him to miss Thurs­day’s loss to the Lak­ers in Los An­ge­les.

But he didn’t par­tic­i­pate in the Thun­der’s prac­tice. Nor did for­ward Carmelo An­thony, who missed the Lak­ers game with a sprained right an­kle. As such, it’s un­clear whether ei­ther will play in Sun­day’s home game against the Mem­phis Griz­zlies. Both are listed as ques­tion­able.

With a 6 p.m. start on Sun­day, the Thun­der won’t hold a morn­ing shootaround. So West­brook and An­thony will go through some ac­tiv­ity at around 3 p.m. be­fore reach­ing a de­ci­sion with the med­i­cal staff about their avail­abil­ity against the Griz­zlies.

On Satur­day, the Thun­der pre­pared for their ab­sence, just in case.

Against the Lak­ers, OKC had play­ers “out of roles, out of po­si­tions,” Dono­van said, and it was clear the ex­e­cu­tion suf­fered in a 106-81 loss, the Thun­der’s most lop­sided of the sea­son.

So Satur­day’s prac­tice in­cluded, for ex­am­ple, some work with Alex Abrines at point guard — he was OKC’s backup there against Los An­ge­les, his first sig­nif­i­cant min­utes at the po­si­tion — and with Steven Adams and Pa­trick Pat­ter­son play­ing to­gether.

“You just try to work on the dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions so there’s a feel of what’s go­ing on,” Dono­van said.

PG the play­maker

With West­brook side­lined against the Lak­ers, Paul Ge­orge took on some ad­di­tional of­fen­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In Thurs­day’s loss, 42 per­cent of the Thun­der’s pos­ses­sions ended with Ge­orge at­tempt­ing a shot, get­ting to the free-throw line or com­mit­ting a turnover.

That 42 per­cent us­age rate was well above Ge­orge’s sea­son per­cent­age of 25.6.

The ad­di­tional ball­han­dling re­spon­si­bil­i­ties could prove use­ful later as the sea­son winds on, Ge­orge said.

“It’ll pre­pare me later on in case — it’s a long sea­son,” he said. “Guys could be in­jured. Guys gonna have to take a night off. It was good to get that un­der my feet with hav­ing Russ and Melo out.”

Though West­brook’s ab­sence puts the ball in Ge­orge’s hands more, Dono­van said it doesn’t dra­mat­i­cally change the ways Ok­la­homa City uses him.

The biggest dif­fer­ence, Dono­van said, is pre­sent­ing Ge­orge with a pack­age of plays to use when he’s ini­ti­at­ing of­fense and get­ting him com­fort­able with call­ing plays.

Even when West­brook is avail­able, Dono­van said, he wants to see Ge­orge bring­ing the ball up­court at times and creat­ing in the half­court for him­self and oth­ers.

“To me, I al­most look at Paul Ge­orge as be­ing a point guard just be­cause of his vi­sion and abil­ity to see and make plays,” Dono­van said. “To me, he’s a play­maker.”

Break on the hori­zon

The Thun­der has three games re­main­ing be­fore the All-Star break: the Griz­zlies on Sun­day, the Cava­liers at home on Tues­day and the Griz­zlies again on Wed­nes­day in Mem­phis.

Af­ter that, OKC goes seven days with­out a game. And that break is en­tic­ing, Ge­orge said. But the Thun­der — which has strug­gled at times this sea­son to fo­cus on the task at hand — is try­ing to live in the mo­ment.

“For us, we’re still in the hunt,” Ge­orge said. “We still want to be play­ing our best bas­ket­ball right now. We don’t re­ally want to be look­ing to­ward the break. We’re happy there’s a break com­ing up, but the way we’ve been play­ing, we don’t want to kind of get re­laxed or lack­adaisi­cal and be ready for this break to come.”

[PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Thun­der play­ers Rus­sell West­brook, left, and Carmelo An­thony both are deal­ing with sprained an­kles. It’s ques­tion­able whether they’ll play against the Griz­zlies on Sun­day.

Brett Daw­son bdaw­son@ ok­la­homan.com

THUN­DER

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