Newcomers adapt quickly, prepare for second game with Thunder

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — It was a quick turnaround for Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

After being traded, the former Chicago Bulls players had been in Oklahoma City less than 24 hours before they found themselves taking passes from Russell Westbrook and converting them into buckets.
Neither had time to fully take in how much their lives had changed or what was in store for them and their new team. But that didn’t seem to affect their game.
In Oklahoma City’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, Gibson and McDermott combined for 20 points and eight rebounds. They made an instant impression on their new coach.
“I thought those guys did really well. You know, again, like we talked about before the game, no shootaround, 15 minutes on the court walking through a few things, asking a lot of questions in timeouts, and what I really tried to do for those guys was in timeouts, here’s two or three things we’re going to do for a little while and then diagram some stuff to try to have them run,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
“But I think Taj got the ball in some good post areas on the floor. He really finished and did a couple nice moves inside. I thought Doug had some opportunities, which was encouraging to see. So for those guys to come in off of a plane at 11 o’clock at night and come on the floor and get the minutes they got, I thought they both did a terrific job.”
Gibson and McDermott got their first full practice in with the Thunder on Saturday afternoon. While they will still be in unfamiliar territory, each should be a little more comfortable with each passing practice and game.
Gibson says much of that is due to the atmosphere the players have created around the team.
“I’ve never been in a hallway where guys are doing so many handshakes and jumping around, bouncing. Knowing rap rhymes. It was all new for me,” Gibson said. “Just being around the guys, everybody is so easygoing, everybody is so welcoming. Already joking with me like I’ve been here for years. Guys are real funny here. They joke a lot. It’s just funny to see a lot of 7-footers joking the way they do.”
That includes Steven Adams, who was once voted one of the league’s dirtiest players.
“When I look at Steven, I am like, he is a giant, he has this full sleeve (tattoo),” Gibson said. “But when he smiles and he laughs at you, you just notice a big gold tooth in his mouth. It’s something new to me, but it’s a good thing. I like guys like that.”
Oklahoma City will be back in action Sunday night when it hosts New Orleans at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Pelicans didn’t have the same success as the Thunder in their first game after making the biggest trade of the season. Bringing in center DeMarcus Cousins didn’t stop them from losing by 30 at home to Houston.
New Orleans was back on the court Saturday night when it traveled to Dallas looking for a different result. However, the Pelicans lost their second straight game despite a monster night from Anthony Davis.
But with only three Pelicans scoring in double figures, they weren’t able to capitalize on Davis’ 39 points and 14 rebounds.
The lack of depth is a result of the trade that brought Cousins to New Orleans and the Pelicans haven’t found a way to make up for those lost bodies. That is not a good position to be in against a deeper Thunder squad.
“They make the game so easy, man. McDermott is doing an unbelievable job,” Thunder center Enes Kanter said. “Doug is doing an unbelievable job just driving to the basket and shooting the ball.
“Then obviously Taj, he’s just doing an unbelievable job of posting up, rebounding, defending the ball. It’s going to help us a lot.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with

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