Thunder could be 'scary good'
Not that the Jazz needed any reminders, but the Oklahoma City Thunder offered a weeklong glimpse into their future potential at the Orlando, Fla., summer league in July. Seven players -- yes, seven -- from their team went on to make the opening night roster.
That list of players in Orlando -- Russell Westbrook , James Harden , Serge Ibaka , Shaun Livingston , Byron Mullens , Kyle Weaver and D.J. White -- didn't even include 2007 top draft picks Kevin Durant and Jeff Green .
"They're a young, youthful team," said Wesley Matthews , who played for the Jazz's team in Orlando, "and we didn't even see Durant and he's an emerging star very quickly."
Oklahoma City can count four top-five picks from the last three drafts on its roster -- Durant (No. 2 overall), Green (No. 5), Westbrook (No. 4, 2008) and Harden (No. 3, 2009) -- and already has beaten Orlando, San Antonio and Miami this season.
"That's the advantages of losing games and getting better players," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They've done a good job getting good players, making the right choice. I think they know their business very well and I think they've done an excellent job of picking players."
The Thunder's rise is of considerable importance to the Jazz, given that the two teams are Northwest Division rivals.
"You saw it happen with Portland," Deron Williams said. "They were kind of in the same boat a couple years ago and then finished better than us last year. They're on their way to being a good team as well. ... In a couple years, they're going to be scary good."
Mehmet Okur returned to practice Monday after missing three games with flu-like symptoms. Okur said he was tested for the H1N1 virus, but was found to be suffering from an ordinary stomach virus instead.
Okur added he started feeling "a little bit weird" during the Jazz's recent Eastern Conference trip, but was doing better Monday.
Ronnie Price also reported improvement with his sprained left big toe, though Price has not been cleared to start running and jumping again. Price will miss his seventh game tonight since suffering the injury, though he won't require surgery.
"I'm just listening and following instructions and being smart about it," Price said, "because just the fact that I don't need surgery has been the biggest relief for me."
Price had been concerned when the original pain level didn't decrease. He underwent multiple MRI exams and saw several specialists, with the consensus that he's suffering from nothing more serious than a sprain and normal wear and tear on his feet.
Price added he doesn't expect to need off-season surgery. Kyle Korver , meanwhile, did increased court work and said he's getting closer to making his return from knee surgery while C.J. Miles made a routine visit to a hand specialist about his left thumb.
At EnergySolutions Arena
Tonight, 7 p.m.
TV/Radio » FSN Utah, 1320 AM, 98.7 FM
Records » Jazz 7-6; Thunder 7-7
Last meeting: »Jazz won 101-94 on March 20
Line » Jazz by 7
About the Jazz » The Jazz are enjoying their best stretch of the season, having won three straight and four of the last five. They have beaten the Thunder four consecutive times in Utah, dating to their days as the Seattle SuperSonics. Ronnie Brewer and Andrei Kirilenko will look to slow Kevin Durant, who ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 27.1 ppg.
About the Thunder » The Thunder are coming off a 101-85 loss Sunday to the L.A. Lakers. They are the second-youngest team in the league after Memphis and rank fifth in giving up an average of 94.1 ppg defensively. No. 3 overall pick James Harden is averaging 8.8 points, though he had consecutive games of 24 and 25 points, hitting a combined 10 three-pointers.