ORLANDO- The Oklahoma City Thunder enter a new week inside the NBA bubble with its first scrimmage coming up on Friday, July 24.
With majority of the Thunder’s practices consisting of contact, physicality, and immense training to regain coordination, on-court chemistry and agility, Billy Donovan notes that the guys feel ready to get back into the action.
“We had a lighter day today with everyone involved,” Donovan said. “These guys are ready to play someone other than themselves.”
The development of the younger players was a key topic of discussion as the start date draws closer, and with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showcasing leadership, the evolution of guys like Terrance Ferguson, Darius Bazley, and Abdel Nader continue to aide the Thunder in the restart process.
In only his second year in the NBA. Gilgeous-Alexander has played a vital role for the Thunder before the shutdown of the NBA in early March. Billy Donovan states that all players develop differently, but Shai has shown great improvement in all aspects of his game.
“Shai worked his way into starting for the Clippers last season,” Donovan said. “He would play about 18-19 minutes. He plays about 34 minutes now for us. He’s able to utilize everything he learns and has used these four months off to continue improving.”
Serving as a promising future for the Thunder, Gilgeous-Alexander has gained the respect from his teammates, including veterans like Steven Adams, by showing up mentally every day ready to compete and put in the work it takes to be successful.
“He’s a really unique player,” Adams said. “He’s very interesting. He creates opportunities for other players. It’s a thumbs up all around from me, mate.”
Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.3 points per game before the suspension of the NBA, and his skillfulness caught the eyes of many fans around the league, as well as teammates like Abdel Nader.
“You see a bunch of athletes who shoot a lot of 3-pointers and dunk a lot,” Nader said. “Shai’s got a lot of craftiness that he’s not afraid to use.”
Other players showing vast improvement include guys like Darius Bazley and Terrance Ferguson. Being two of the youngest guys on the team, Billy Donovan says their maturity reaches far and beyond, while their knowledge of the game helps them develop at an appropriate pace.
“Everybody develops at their own pace,” Donovan said. “Some guys may take longer to grow and mature in this league, but Darius and Terrance have done a great job evolving their game and adjusting to what’s thrown at them.”
Fouling has been one aspect of Ferguson’s game Thunder fans are all too familiar with, but Billy Donovan notes that as time goes on, Ferguson has been cognizant to making those adjustments and reading his opponent better.
“He had a tendency to foul too much,” Donovan said. “He’s going to grow and develop in those areas more and more.”
Steven Adams, who has now played alongside Terrance Ferguson for three seasons, states that Ferguson is the type of player to absorb useful information, while taking criticism and turning it into improvements on the court.
“The things he does won’t get as much praise externally as they should,” Adams said. “Internally, these things are important. He busts his ass on every play, and he always does what is asked of him.”
The Thunder will have contact practice the next two days with an off day scheduled for Thursday.
The Thunder is scheduled to scrimmage the Boston Celtics on Friday, July 24, at 5 p.m ET (4 p.m. CT).