Coming into the NBA, Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan said his intention was to put in an offensive system that relies on moving the ball, creating advantages and attacking with the pass. So far in U.S. Cellular Thunder Training Camp, feels that he’s getting his wish.
With high level players on the floor who are extremely skilled in a variety of areas, it’s easier for guys to make plays for one another. There’s more space on the floor, decisions can be easier and some of the role players can stay in their lane and stick to their specialty. The most encouraging part of the first three days of camp for Donovan have been the way his two newest perennial All-Stars are moving the ball.
“The one thing that has kind of permeated through our team at this point is Carmelo (Anthony) and Paul (George’s) ability to pass the ball,” Donovan said. “The ball is moving at a level that I feel really good about.”
“We put in a couple plays and everything is running smoothly,” guard Andre Roberson added. “We’re playing together and sharing the ball. That’s what we all expect.”
Camp Talk: Donovan, Grant, Roberson, Ferguson
While they’re presently building chemistry with one another on the floor, there’s one MVP-sized factor missing from the action. Russell Westbrook is still resting after receiving a platelet-rich Plasma injection into his left knee’s patellar tendon last week. The procedure was unrelated to Westbrook’s previous knee injuries, which occurred in his right knee.
As a result, Westbrook, along with forward Patrick Patterson who is also recovering from a knee procedure, have not been a part of the Thunder’s five-on-five, contact work. Still, Westbrook has been a prominent fixture in Thunder practices in making sure everyone is feeling confident, supported and unified in the early going.
“(Westbrook) is still on the floor cheering for us, talking to us on the court, putting people in the right positions and giving us advice,” Roberson explained.
“(Westbrook) has been very vocal,” forward Jerami Grant echoed. “He’s our leader. He’s definitely shown that. He’s been right there the whole time.”
– Thunder players met with a Navy SEAL at practice on Thursday, giving them an opportunity to share experiences. It’s not just the physical, but also the mental requirements of Navy SEAL’s that provided Thunder players with a unique perspective.
– Is Hoodie Melo’s influence beginning already? Today Donovan was wearing a slick new Thunder hooded sweatshirt, with the same design as the Thunder’s Statement jersey.
– Last season Grant blocked the most shots per 36 minutes on the team, and with his rising abilities to shoot the three, he presents an intriguing tool for Donovan. He’s willing to play wherever Donovan needs him to based on the matchup, but don’t be surprised to see Grant at power forward or even center with some lineups this season so the team can maximize his gifts near the rim.
- “A lot depends on the player, the personnel and those kind of things,” Donovan said. “Jerami is strong and has length. He may not have the size or height of a center, but he has the length to be able to alter and challenge shots.”
– Roberson was asked about having to defend Anthony and George in practice every day, and had an interesting quote to describe how that preparation at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center will impact what he has to do against the opposition.
- “I’m a firm believer that it should be harder in practice than it is in the game,” Roberson said. “Going against those guys in practice is only going to make me better in the game.”
– A third Thunder wing, rookie Terrance Ferguson reported that he’s working with Thunder assistant coach Darko Rajakovic. Right now, they’re mostly focused on his shooting – the basics of staying low and having ready feet. Donovan and company are more excited, however, about what he can do on the other side of the floor. He still has room to put on weight, but Donovan said Ferguson isn’t afraid of contact or to stick his nose into the middle of a play and be aggressive.
- “The thing I’m really most impressed with him is that he has great open floor speed. He’s a high level defender who lacks a lot of experience right now. He’s going to be a terrific defender,” Donovan reviewed.