Russell Westbrook’s signature on the dotted line on Friday told the Oklahoma City Thunder quite a lot. It was a direct message to the faithful fans and was a statement to the world about his feelings about the organization and the state. That sentiment was clearly felt by Westbrook’s teammates too.
One in particular the commitment resonated with was Raymond Felton, the longtime NBA veteran who has now played for eight different NBA franchises since he entered the league in 2005.
“It just shows the respect that this organization has when you have premier players like that willing to come here, when you have premier players to sign back here for multiple years to continue to play here,” Felton explained. “It’s a great organization and a great city. The fans are amazing from what I’ve seen so far.”
Camp Talk: Raymond Felton
Felton says he understands why Westbrook would plant his flag long term in Oklahoma City. It’s a family atmosphere and environment in the city. Felton’s neighbors drop by to check on him and say hello. They wave as he drives by, even if they don’t know him. It reminds Felton of his younger days growing up in small-town South Carolina, in the 1,300-person town of Latta.
Some other memories have cropped up for Felton so far in camp. While the Thunder clearly are in win-now mode with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony lining up with Westbrook’s commitment, the future is also bright. Felton has been working closely with the young guards on the Thunder’s roster and Head Coach Billy Donovan has noted the impact his veteran leadership has already made on the group.
From Semaj Christon to Terrance Ferguson and Alex Abrines to Daniel Hamilton, Felton has tried to help usher along the development of the Thunder’s young guards, who he believes have the talent to be contributors this season and in the years to come.
“We’ve all been young before. We’ve all been on the basketball court when we go too fast,” Felton said. “That’s all it is, it all comes with experience. Those guys are young but they’re all great players.”
Camp Talk: Coach Donovan
– A major aspect of the Thunder’s offense this season will be the high screen and roll at the top of the key between Westbrook and fifth-year center Steven Adams. Donovan explained that every play between the two in some ways is completely unique due to the other eight players on the floor and their positioning. It’s up to Westbrook to read whether players are in the short corner, behind the screen, in front of the screen, in the corner or along the baseline, and how everyone rotates.
- “With our team changing, Adams will be in different kinds of screening actions, maybe even moreso than last season,” Donovan said.
- (Westbrook) is going to be able to generate that kind of penetration and generate things downhill,” Donovan added. “It’s more trying to create opportunities for him where the floor is spaced in such a way that we can put the defense in some kind of binds where somebody is going to have to help and he has the decision to be able to find the open man from there.”
- “So much of that stuff is Russell, in my opinion, does an incredible job of reading how he’s being played, how the screen is being played and how the floor is rotating,” Donovan stated.
Watch: Thunder Minute
– Not only is Felton getting to know his new, younger teammates, he’s also getting reacquainted with an old friend. Felton and Carmelo Anthony go all the way back to AAU and high school tournaments, the McDonald’s All-American Game and eventually with the New York Knicks. They’ve picked up right where they left off both on and off the floor.
- “We have a lot of history with each other. We’ve known each other since we were kids,” Felton said. “To get that bond back and be with one another on the same team and go out and battle will be fun.”
– Today’s practice was spent working through a variety of items that came up after Sunday’s Blue and White Scrimmage. Westbrook participated in contact drills for the first time during U.S. Cellular Training Camp, which gave Felton a chance to run with the second unit. The first and second groups will have to be cohesive, and play with a similar identity, for this Thunder squad to be whole. Practices in October, the four preseason games and the Blue and White Scrimmage all give Donovan and his staff material to work with moving forward.
- “Just looking at what we’re trying to do defensively and offensively, it wasn’t perfect,” Donovan noted. “There were some things we could build upon. There are some things we did well, which was encouraging.”