Scott Brooks has made it clear there are few minutes available in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s lineup and rotations with 16 games left in the regular season.
The battle between Ronnie Brewer and Perry Jones III is a perfect example.
When Sam Presti made a deadline-deal to acquire Brewer from the New York Knicks, everyone’s first thought was: LeBron Stopper. Brewer is 6 foot, 7 inches tall and 225 pounds with experience playing for defensive-minded coaches Jerry Sloan and Tom Thibodeau. He’s almost exactly what the Thunder needs if they find themselves in a Finals rematch with the Heat in June. He may not be able to stop LeBron, but he has the size to at least give LeBron problems.
However, since joining the Thunder Brewer has played a total of 33 minutes in five games and has only attempted seven shots. Brooks claims there just aren’t enough minutes to be had, but in the Thunder’s win over the Magic Wednesday, he had plenty of opportunities to play Brewer in the first half.
Instead, he passed in favor of Jones.
In turn, Jones played well with eight points and five rebounds in 11 minutes. He was also in rhythm with the second unit, something Brooks seems to be more concerned with than defensive ability or LeBron stopping ability.
"It’s hard to get all of our guys in," Brooks said after their win over Orlando. "It’s hard to play 10 or 11 guys, but Perry (Jones) has been working hard for us all year and he’s going to continue. I’m glad he came in and played well. It gives me confidence as a coach and he deserves some opportunities."
The final statement of Brooks’ quote about Jones is telling.
"He deserves some opportunities."
It’s telling because everybody wants to know why Brewer is getting fewer minutes as the season goes along. It is becoming obvious Brooks is looking for something else than pure defense. Whether it is Jones because of his length or because he "deserves" it, there’s no doubt there’s a battle between the two for the final spot in the rotation.
The allocation of minutes is also telling because it seems Brooks is on the Jones bandwagon for the time being.
After the team’s win over Orlando, Brooks had plenty of praise for Jones.
"I thought Perry did a good job," Brooks said. "He works everyday for us and he works to get better everyday. I’m very pleased with him. He has a very bright future with us. He does what we expect him to do. He can get above-the-rim rebounds, he can make shots and he can make layups around the basket. He did a good job. His defense was solid as well."
Kevin Durant wasn’t shy about expressing his thought’s on Jones’ game against Orlando either.
"I was very happy with Perry (Jones) when he came in," Durant said. "After not playing he came into a tight game and played well. I’m happy for him to see all his hard work paying off. He played a terrific game."
With the backing of his coach and teammates, Jones may start building confidence.
The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry asked Jones about building confidence and if he is building on it.
"All the time," Jones said. "All I have to do is go out there and be aggressive, defend and rebound. That’s what coach is looking for in my activity."
Confidence can separate players and determine whether they make an impact every night or just come off the bench and provide playing time.
With Jones, it seems to be determining his role as the newest member of the Thunder’s rotation.
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