Robert Vaden Seizing Thunder Opportunity

Robert Vaden was called up by the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 20 from the Tulsa 66ers, just in time to join the Thunder for the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets.

Vaden played for the 66ers in 2010-11 and helped lead the team to the D-League semifinals. The guard/forward averaged 16.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 32.3 minutes in four postseason games for the 66ers. During the regular season, he averaged 10.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 28.0 minutes in 45 games (17 starts).

I felt like we had a successful year, Vaden said. We played defense together and we really got it going when we shared the ball and played as a team. We would have liked to have made it to the finals, but we had a great year overall.

After the final game of the D-League playoffs against Iowa, Vaden was notified by Oklahoma City Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti that he would be joining the Thunder. Vaden is making the most of the opportunity he has been given.

I have been observing everything since I have been here, and something that stands out to me is that guys are really professional, he said. I try to notice everything and learn from everyone on the team.

Being here has exceeded my expectations," Vaden said. "I know this is a first class organization, and it is easy for anyone to say that. But when you experience it first hand, it is really something else.

For Games 3 and 4, Vaden experienced his first NBA road trip when the Thunder visited Denver.

It was very different from what I am used to but it was a great experience, he said. I had to do some things for the older guys because I am the rookie. It was a lot fun. It is fun to be around guys every day that people would love to be around. I am taking it all in.

The opportunity will only help drive the UAB graduate as he further develops his game.

It drives me a lot, he said. I have been working every day with different coaches. It opens your eyes when you see how hard you have to work when you see Kevin Durant working before games and he is working harder than anyone in the gym. You cant take any days off.

Vaden noted the synergy between the 66ers and Thunder and how seamless of a transition it was.

A lot of things in Tulsa are the same as far as offense and defense, Vaden said. The terminology and expectations are very similar when you compare Tulsa head coach (Nate) Tibbetts and Thunder head coach (Scott) Brooks. It was a great and easy transition for me because I have been in the Tulsa system for a while.

In just a week in Oklahoma City, Vaden was a part of a major milestonethe Thunder captured its first playoff series victory since moving to Oklahoma City by besting the Nuggets four games to one.

It is a huge honor to be a part of the first series win in Oklahoma City history, he said. The fan support here in OKC is unbelievable and it was just fun to be a part of it. I am definitely thankful for this opportunity the Thunder has given me.