OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder’s first home game since the NBA Finals turned into a showcase for a handful of training camp invitees trying to earn the final roster spot.
Andy Rautins scored 20 points, Serge Ibaka added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the Thunder beat the Charlotte Bobcats 120-98 in a preseason game on Tuesday night.
“I think the main objective right now is to try to get better as a team. Wherever you fit in, you fit in,” said Rautins, one of those trying to fill the 15th spot on the roster.
“You just play your game and hope for the best outcome. I think collectively we had a solid effort tonight.”
Starters Kendrick Perkins (left wrist surgery) and Thabo Sefolosha (left quad contusion) and Sixth Man of the Year James Harden (strained left groin) were among those who sat out.
That left plenty of minutes for Rautins, DeAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton, Hollis Thompson and Walker Russell to eat up. Liggins started in place of Sefolosha and Orton, Thompson and Russell all got playing time for the first time in the preseason.
“It’s working out well. The chemistry on the team is good,” Rautins said. “Even though we’ve got 19-20 guys, I think everybody vibes well and whoever’s on the floor is a cohesive unit. So, it’s fun.”
Ben Gordon scored 21 points and Ramon Sessions chipped in 18 for the Bobcats, who gave Kemba Walker the night off.
“We’ve got a whole new coaching staff, we’ve got five new players on the team. We’re just trying to jell together,” said ex-Thunder center Byron Mullens, who went 4 for 10 on 3-pointers and scored 16 points. “We had summer league, but all the guys weren’t there of course because it’s summer league.
“We’re getting there. We had a really good first half. We’ve just got to put two together.”
Three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant scored 13 points in his most extensive playing time of the preseason, going 2 for 8 in the first half before hitting his first three shots as Oklahoma City pulled away after leading 57-53 at halftime.
Durant and Russell Westbrook scored all the points during an 11-2 run midway through the third quarter that stretched Oklahoma City’s lead to 72-59.
Both were on the bench throughout the fourth quarter, when Brooks let the training camp invitees loose. Rautins showed off his shooting, Liggins his perimeter defense, Orton his inside skills and Russell his ability to lead the team from the point.
“We definitely have a lot of good choices. We have guys that can do things that the other guys can’t,” Brooks said.
He’s not tipping his hand yet on who might get the last spot, with four preseason games still to go.
“It’s tough. It’s not going to be an easy day because there’s going to be somebody disappointed, and somebody who played well enough to make the team,” Brooks said. “But you can’t keep 19 guys. It’s a tough business. This is a tough league to make and it’s a tough league to stick, and we have that right in front of our eyes.”