Thun­der ex­pects Pa­trick Pat­ter­son to catch up

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS - Brett Daw­son

The mes­sage comes every prac­tice, loud and clear.

Pa­trick Pat­ter­son will move be­hind the 3-point line and hear a de­fender shout, “Cor­ner shooter!” He’ll set a screen and hear a Thun­der team­mate warn an­other, “Pick and pop!”

You’ve mostly seen a Pat­ter­son this sea­son who’s strug­gled with his tim­ing and his shoot­ing, who ad­mits he’s still get­ting “my legs and my lungs” af­ter miss­ing the pre­sea­son fol­low­ing knee

surgery.

But his new Thun­der team­mates have been com­pet­ing against him for years in Hous­ton and Sacramento and Toronto. They know that he’s only given glimpses of his de­fense, that he’s a bet­ter shooter than he’s shown.

“They know, just be­cause they’ve played against me and they’ve seen me, what I’m ca­pa­ble of,” Pat­ter­son said. “They know right now I’m just try­ing to get back to that elite level.”

Pat­ter­son knows, too, that he’s bet­ter than he’s been.

His left knee is pain free, he said, three months re­moved from arthro­scopic surgery. He doesn’t worry about play-

ing on it. And though “it sucked,” Pat­ter­son said, to miss train­ing camp, his body and mind are start­ing to align.

“But you’re still not there yet,” he said. “It’s very frus­trat­ing.”

Pat­ter­son has played in all 13 Thun­der games, av­er­ag­ing 2.7 points and 1.8 re­bounds in 15.2 min­utes. A ca­reer 36.6 per­cent 3-point shooter, he’s shoot­ing 29 per­cent from long range.

He’s com­ing off his best game with Ok­la­homa City, set­ting sea­son highs with seven points and four re­bounds in Sun­day’s 11299 win against the Mavericks.

He also played a sea­son-high 25 min­utes against Dal­las, largely be­cause Carmelo An­thony and Steven Adams were side­lined with in­juries. No­body wants a de­pleted ros­ter, but Thun­der coach Billy Dono­van said Pat­ter­son “needed” a game like Sun­day’s, when he was forced into sig­nif­i­cant time.

In the mo­ment, Pat­ter­son said, he didn’t feel much dif­fer­ent against

Dal­las. He’s still think­ing too much, he said, still ad­just­ing to a new team and to play­ing both power for­ward and cen­ter.

But then he watched the film.

Pat­ter­son re­viewed his own per­for­mance and saw his com­fort level with a va­ri­ety of de­fen­sive as­sign­ments, whether cov­er­ing the pick and roll or switch­ing onto a ball­han­dler.

He saw that he looked more fluid, watched the way he ex­ploded up­ward to con­test a shot with pic­ture-per­fect ver­ti­cal­ity.

“See­ing it is very en­cour­ag­ing,” Pat­ter­son said. “It tells me that I’m pro­gres­sively get­ting back to what I want to be.” He’s not there yet. Pat­ter­son feels right at home off the court, say­ing he’s clicked with his team­mates. Now it’s a mat­ter of get­ting that com­fort­able at game time, and that’s still a work in progress af­ter sit­ting for pre­sea­son. He puts up ex­tra shots and does ex­tra con­di­tion­ing, he said, af­ter prac­tice or late at night.

Though he’s be­hind, team­mates know what to ex­pect from Pat­ter­son, and they’re see­ing glimpses of it.

For­ward Paul Ge­orge, whose In­di­ana Pac­ers played Pat­ter­son’s Rap­tors in a 2016 first-round play­off se­ries, called Pat­ter­son “a tough­ness guy,” a 3-point-shoot­ing de­fen­sive spe­cial­ist, and said “that’s what we’re gonna need” from him in OKC.

It’s been “very help­ful,” Pat­ter­son said, that his team­mates have made it clear that they un­der­stand his ups and downs. They’ve stressed to him that they know he’s ca­pa­ble of more once he gets com­fort­able.

“He’s such a con­sci­en­tious player and team­mate that he doesn’t want that first im­pres­sion to be like, ‘OK, this is as good as I am,’” Dono­van said. “I know he’s not where he’s ca­pa­ble of be­ing and where he’s go­ing to be, and I think our team re­al­izes that.”

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Pa­trick Pat­ter­son is get­ting back in bas­ket­ball shape af­ter left knee surgery in Au­gust caused him to miss the pre­sea­son.

Bdaw­son@ ok­la­homan.com

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN AR­CHIVES]

Pa­trick Pat­ter­son, right, cel­e­brates with Rus­sell West­brook and Ray­mond Fel­ton af­ter mak­ing a 3-pointer on Oct. 25 against the In­di­ana Pac­ers.

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