The Oklahoma City Thunder began training camp for the 2018-19 NBA season. Here are some notes from the first day with quotes from players and coaches.
Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson Stay Engaged
- Despite working their way back from injury, head coach Billy Donovan said that both Westbrook and Roberson were able to stay engaged in practice.
- Both are in the non-contact portion of their rehab processes. Will have to work towards contact before fully joining the team in practice.
- Donovan on Roberson: “I thought he did a good job staying engaged in practice like Russell did, just trying to talk to those guys and helping them when they can. Again, there are things that he can do in things that relates to shooting and some movement but there are certain things you can’t do.”
- Donovan on Westbrook: “Even today, him trying to stay engaged in practice even though he can’t do things physically but being out there and staying engaged trying to talk to guys.”
Dennis Schröder Quick at Picking Up New Terminology
- Schröder, who the Thunder traded for back in July, has been working out with teammates over the summer. He has been able to absorb information from Westbrook going into training camp.
- Donovan spoke about how smart Schröder is and has been impressed with his ability to learn on the fly.
- Donovan: “Dennis is a really smart player. He picked up things really, really well. He’s really good and listens, pays attention. I think as a point guard he’s very cerebral.”
- Continued: “I think the hard part for any player defensively is just getting the coverage. He’s got to learn those types of things but he’ll learn those things and those takes time to build. But he’s smart enough that he knows what’s going on.”
- With Westbrook out, Donovan said he was able to run things with Schröder well for the first day, but mentioned it will take time to learn the terminology: “With where we were today, yeah we were fine. But if I threw out terminology that Russell knows to Dennis, he’s not going to know that. Dennis is learning it and we was able to pick it up. There wasn’t a point as a coach where I thought, ‘Man this is taking a long time for Dennis to pick things up,’ I was able to go at a normal pace.”
Russell Westbrook’s Leadership and Nick Collison’s “Replacement”
- Sam Presti said at his press conference last week that with Nick Collison retired, that this was an opportunity for Westbrook to take that next step as a leader and fill the void left by Collison.
- When asked about Westbrook’s leadership evolution, Donovan pointed out the things fans and media don’t get to see.
- Donovan: “But there’s a lot of things behind closed doors, in the locker room, in practice. Even at night with guys, where he organizes things for those guys to go to dinner together. I remember [Domantas] Sabonis’ rookie year, it was the first time the two of them were playing pick-and-rolls together, he told Domas to meet him at 8:30 in the morning. They were working together. People don’t see those kind of things.”
- Continued: “From a leadership standpoint, Russell has invested a lot in this organization and as you go through year by year you learn and grow and you improve and you find out different things or different techniques that help leadership wise. I’m sure Russell in a lot of ways has grown and seen things in a different way and probably his relationship with Nick has got a lot to do with that.”
- Donovan on “replacing” Collison’s leadership in the locker room: “You hate to sit there and say this guy or that guy is going to replace Nick Collison because there’s only one Nick Collison. And you’re not going to replace that.”
- Continued: “But I don’t think you want to go up to someone and say, “You’ve got to be the next Nick,” because there’s only one Nick and he was incredible. I think for Russell, for Andre for Steven (Adams), these guys have been here for a while so there’s a collective ownership in that part.”
Nerlens Noel Is Excited to Play for a Winner
- Noel, who has been in the league for five years, has yet to make the playoffs. Yesterday at media day he claimed that this would be the, “first time I’ll be in the playoffs.”
- Noel’s time at Philadelphia was during the early days of the process, also known as tanking, and his time with Dallas also didn’t result in a lot of wins.
- Noel: “This is actually a different type of environment for me. They know what they want to do, and get done from day one. There’s clear intentions on winning every game that is played so I’m really excited about that.”