Thunder expects Patrick Patterson to catch up
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
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.”
Patrick Patterson is getting back in basketball shape after left knee surgery in August caused him to miss the preseason.
Patrick Patterson, right, celebrates with Russell Westbrook and Raymond Felton after making a 3-pointer on Oct. 25 against the Indiana Pacers.