Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

July 6, 2012

Thunder signs former No. 2 pick Thabeet

OKLAHOMA CITY — Hasheem Thabeet is getting another chance to prove himself, this time with the Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.

Thabeet's agent, Bill Duffy, confirmed Thursday that the 7-foot-3 center has agreed to a two-year guaranteed contract with the Thunder. The deal was first reported by The Oklahoman.

NBA teams aren't allowed to announce new signings until next Wednesday.

Thabeet was the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft by Memphis but has averaged only 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in limited playing time over the last three seasons with the Grizzlies, Houston and Portland. Duffy believes the Thunder could provide a better fit for the defensive-minded Tanzanian.

"They have so much offensive firepower that there is less reliance on scoring from the center position," Duffy said.

With Nazr Mohammed becoming a free agent, Oklahoma City was seeking another center to back up Kendrick Perkins. Thabeet can compete with Cole Aldrich for that job.

Aldrich is also an unproven commodity, having played in only 44 games in his first two seasons since being taken with the No. 11 pick in the 2010 draft. Aldrich has averaged 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds.

Thabeet has averaged only 10 minutes per game and started 16 times in his career. He played in 20 games last season for Houston and Portland, starting three times. Duffy said Thabeet understands he "was a high-profile draft pick" and still has to prove himself, but he appreciates Thunder general manager Sam Presti believing in him and giving him a chance.

Oklahoma City gets much of its offensive production from three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, fellow All-star Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man of the Year James Harden. That allows other key components — including starters Thabo Sefolosha, Perkins and NBA blocks leader Serge Ibaka — to be more defense-oriented and contribute scoring to a more limited extent.

"We're all caught up in the euphoria of the opportunity," Duffy said.

Aldrich also seemed to be in line for more playing time after last season before Oklahoma City re-signed Mohammed with a one-year deal to return. The Thunder then traded away reserve Byron Mullens, another 2009 first-round draft pick, to clear part of their logjam at the center position.

Once again, Aldrich won't be handed the backup role.

"Everybody has different opportunities. Everybody has different situations," Aldrich said after the season. "You take a grip of your opportunities of your opportunities and your situation and you just work hard and just know that those times are going to come and when they do, you've got to take full advantage of them."

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