TULSA — Through Thunder training camp, much discussed topics have included Chris Paul, the squad’s lone superstar, ball movement as a big part of the offense, how coach Billy Donovan might manage three different point guards and the back-on-the-court-again Andre Roberson.
Not discussed a heck of a lot has been center Steven Adams, half of Oklahoma City’s returning starter contingent along with shooting guard Terrance Ferguson.
Donovan plays just about everything close to the vest, yet appeared to open a door of expectation toward Adams being more productive than last season’s 13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
Adams grabbed 21 rebounds in 19 minutes in the Thunder’s Blue and White Scrimmage three days ago, and while it’s the smallest possible sample size — and not even a real game — it was still jarring to see how many boards he grabbed when Russell Westbrook wasn’t around to grab any. On the flip side, Adams attempted only five shots in those 19 minutes.
Here’s Donovan’s thought when asked specifically if we can expect to see Adams, perhaps, not play a different role, but fill up the boxscore in ways he hasn’t previously.
“He’s going to play the right way, that’s just who he is,” he said. “He’s not a guy that wants to be in the limelight at the center of what’s going on. He wants it to be about the team …
“Certainly, we need him to do the things you’re talking about him doing. You know, if he’s a force offensively and defensive rebounding, that really helps our game.”
That Donovan pointed out scoring and defensive rebounding may be telling. Last season, Adams grabbed more boards off the offensive glass than the defensive, 4.9 to 4.6. Indeed, he often did the space clearing that allowed Westbrook to grab defensive boards.
Also, though his 10.1 shot attempts per game last season marked a career-high, many more may be available after Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant departed, taking a collective 51.4 attempts per game with them.
In the first half Tuesday, Adams only grabbed three rebounds, but scored 15 points on 5 of 8 shooting and 4 of 7 foul shooting.
He finished with 17 points in OKC's 119-104 victory.
• Three of five: Donovan had spoken about the possibility of playing all three of his point guards — Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder — together and Tuesday he didn’t wait, starting all three.
They played together uninterrupted the opening 7:11. The Thunder led 20-16 when the trio was broken up. Paul had three assists and three points, Gilgeous Alexander an assist and three points and Schroder just an assist, though he finished the half with four more.
They were joined in the starting lineup by Adams — who opened the game with a 3-pointer, seriously, off a dish from Paul — and Danilo Gallinari.
• Bailey impresses: In his pregame comments, Donovan made it sound like first-round draft choice Darius Bazley might not even play, mentioning how many players the Thunder are carrying in the preseason.
Instead, Bazley played quickly, turning 6:45 of first half time against the Mavericks into five points, two rebounds and an assist.
The assist became a dunk from Terrance Ferguson and three of his five points came on his only 3-point attempt.
• Coming up: The Thunder play their second preseason game at 7 p.m. Thursday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena against the New Zealand Breakers of the primarily-Australian NBL.
After that the play the Mavericks again, in Dallas, at 7:30 p.m. Monday. They close the preseason slate back home against Memphis two nights later.