John Klein: Thunder looks to its new additions for a boost
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Thursday, February 28, 2013
2/28/13 at 8:51 AM
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Related Story: Durant's triple-double leads Thunder rout of Hornets
Original Print Headline: OKC looks to its new additions for a boost
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Thunder made a few changes, in hopes of fortifying for a playoff run, and now it is about putting it all together.
The Thunder will win or lose on the shoulders of stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
However, adding veterans Derek Fisher and Ronnie Brewer is Oklahoma City's way of putting some experience in the locker room and on the floor.
"We added some experienced guys," said OKC's Kevin Durant. "They fit in well with us. They are the kind of guys that look forward to doing whatever to help us.
"They'll fit in fine. I'm anxious to see how we'll use them. I'm anxious to see how we play together."
The Thunder tried a few different lineups, toyed with different rotations and polished off a lengthy homestand with a 119-74 rout of New Orleans on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Arena.
It was OKC's second straight victory by 30 or more points and the largest victory of the season.
"We have a good team," said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. "But, we still have to figure out ways to improve our team."
The Thunder, as expected against the short-handed Hornets (No. 1 pick Anthony Davis did not make the trip), did whatever it wanted against New Orleans.
OKC led by 17 at halftime and the lead was up to 30 barely six minutes into the second half. It led 96-60 after three quarters.
Oklahoma City used 10 players in the first half, including Fisher. Brewer got into the game at the start of the fourth. The Thunder mixed and matched different rotations throughout the game.
It didn't matter who was in there. New Orleans was completely overwhelmed, especially when Durant and Westbrook were on the floor.
Oklahoma City has played four of its last five games at home but now hits the road for four of its next five. It includes trips to Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers before a swing east to face the New York Knicks and Charlotte.
The Thunder should be well-rested and ready to see if the personnel moves can help stabilize a team that hit a rocky spot around the All-Star Game (three straight losses to Utah, Miami and Houston).
"They are both going to have the opportunity to play," said Brooks. "They both give us another option.
"They both know how to make winning plays."
Figuring out how much and when they play is key. Who gets what minutes?
The Thunder continues to be a work in progress. Considering the injury-depleted Hornets lineup, we probably learned little against New Orleans.
Still, we should expect the new guys to start building up minutes on the floor.
"We did not bring him (Fisher) in here to tell us stories about Kobe and Shaq," said Brooks.
The victory over New Orleans was Oklahoma City's third straight victory and second straight rout.
"It was important to take care of home first and then worry about the road," said Durant. "We've had a nice little homestretch here.
"Now, it is time to go on the road and see what we can do."
The Thunder has been on a huge upswing since that three-game losing streak. The losses included on the road at Utah and Houston. It also included a lopsided home loss to Miami, OKC's sixth straight loss to the Heat.
Still, the Thunder has started to play well again. Oklahoma City beat Chicago by 30 before taking apart New Orleans.
"That's the level of confidence we should always play with," said Durant. "Hopefully, we'll continue to build some confidence the next couple of weeks."
Fisher played a key role down the stretch of OKC's run to the NBA Finals last year.
Most believe Fisher will play less and will not be as involved down the stretch this year.
Still, his addition is considered a move to strengthen the Thunder's veteran leadership and stabilize the locker room. In other words, Fisher is considered a great teammate.
"I think it'll be good in the next few weeks to get the new guys integrated into our system," said Durant.
The bonus of adding Fisher is his experience with the Thunder last season.
"He always keeps himself in great shape," said Brooks. "He knows how to play the game. He's a great leader.
"He knows how we do things. He knows how we operate as a team."
That experience is the upside of adding Fisher to a team that seems to be still finding its way at times since James Harden was dealt away just before the start of the season.
Many nights the Thunder looks every bit as lethal as the team that reached the NBA Finals against Miami last year.
Then, there are nights when the Thunder seem to be missing something to go with Durant and Westbrook.
No one knows if these additions will be key to the Thunder's postseason.
"We had a great run last year," said Brooks. "There's no guarantee we'll go back there (NBA Finals)."
Oklahoma City continues to be a work in progress, and that's fine. That's what NBA teams do during a season that can stretch over eight months.
"We are a different team," said Brooks. "Things are different."
Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher shoots against New Orleans during Wednesday's game in Oklahoma City. ALONZO ADAMS / AP