After a well-deserved day off on Sunday, the Thunder got back to work with a light practice session on Monday. The team is gearing itself up for two more days of full speed action at U.S. Cellular Thunder Training Camp prior to Thursday night’s regular season opener at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the New York Knicks.
It’s a brand new situation for the Thunder, and the rest of the NBA, to be in during mid-October. Eight days between games is unlike any stretch of the regular season, so the organization is operating at the best of its ability to balance rest with practice time in order to maximize its players’ abilities once the season starts.
Camp Talk: Coach Donovan
“My concern coming into training camp was this stretch here because I think you want to maximize the week that you have to try to improve from some of the information you have in your preseason games,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said.
Every minute spent at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center is a good one for the Thunder. The team always finds ways to get better. But this stretch will be a good example for what the team needs to expect during the season. Stops and starts on progress, continually needing to work out the kinks, examine slippage that is occurring and making strides forward. The Thunder knows it’s a long 82-game journey ahead, and that they’ll need some intestinal fortitude to weather the roller coaster all year.
“The chemistry is never just an upward climb,” Donovan explained. “Where you started, it’s gotten better but it hasn’t been a steady incline. The chemistry is something you just have to work at. They have to communicate and talk, and once the communication is there, it always helps.”
– There was no contact at practice today, so there was no update on Patrick Patterson or Raymond Felton. Check back in to okcthunder.com later this week for potential updates on their statuses moving forward.
– Donovan disclosed what numbers he looks at to determine whether his defense has played well. It might be a surprise to hear that before field goal percentage, total points or other factors, Donovan put fouling at number one on his list. He said that if a team gets into the bonus early in the quarter by fouling too often, it makes defending at a high level extremely difficult. When they aren’t hamstrung by foul trouble, the Thunder wants to get back in transition (to limit fast break points), protect the rim (prevent high points in the paint totals) and contest three-point shots (limit three-pointers attempted).
– On offense, the Thunder wants to score in those exact three ways – at the free throw line, at the rim and from behind the arc. Ball and player movement can ideally generate those shots, but for superstar players like Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, there are other shots on the floor that are extremely potent – either from the elbows or baseline.
- “There’s a balance from the standpoint that you want to be able to allow those guys to do some of those things because they’re really good at it,” Donovan explained. “They understand the importance is going to be how well we can move the basketball.”
– That conversation about superstar scorers brought up another topic – lockdown defenders. While the game has changed due to how much teams need to switch pick-and-rolls, there are still a handful of defenders like Andre Roberson and Paul George who can make scoring challenging for opponents. Still, with the star players in the NBA, great offense will typically beat great defense.
- “You’re not stopping those guys from shooting the basketball,” Donovan stated. “Once the ball leaves a players’ hands, there’s nothing more the defense can do. It’s just a matter of when it goes in and out. You can make it as difficult as you possibly can.”
Watch: Thunder Minute – 10/16