Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| October 3, 2006
That this year's Seattle SuperSonics training camp will be different than last year was evident before the end of the first practice of Bob Hill
's first camp as head coach. The Sonics were on the court for more than three and a half hours during Tuesday's first practice, and running hard for much of that period.
"My training camps were always like this, so it's not anything different for me," said Hill afterwards. "It's different from our training camp a year ago. I think it's important that it's different from that. We didn't get off to a very good start as a result of that training camp a year ago. This is what I think training camp is about, what we did today."
"It's different from our training camp a year ago. I think it's important that it's different from that."
By the time the Sonics wrapped up the active portion of the practice - more than three hours in - some fatigue had set in. That's not only what Hill expected, it is what he was hoping for.
"You have to fight fatigue," he explained. "In our league, when you play four games in five nights, the fourth quarter of that fifth game, you're tired - everybody's tired. You've got to fight it. Winning teams know how to fight fatigue and execute and win games. That's why camp has to be hard and long, so they get a feel for that right away in addition to getting them in the best condition we can get them in."
Sonics guard Ray Allen said he didn't notice the length of the practice.
"Practice should always be fun," Allen said. "I know it's hard and we're up standing a long time, we're running, but when the coach does the right things as far as drills are concerned and allows there to be a great bit of competition out there, then you forget about what you're doing, where you're standing and how long it's been since you stepped out on the floor. It's just playing basketball and competing. That's what we did today."
Allen welcomed the changes from last year's training camp, highlighting a faster pace that meant more action and less explanation.
"We didn't run last year," he said. "Everything was simulated situations where we were playing half-court. We were doing a lot of standing around, explaining. This we explain two, three minutes and then we go. Not even two, three minutes - 30 seconds and then you go and everybody behind better pay attention."
During the portion of practice open to the media, Hill had the Sonics work on late-game scenarios with only a few seconds remaining on the clock before moving into a pair of different transition drills that had players running up and down the court. Former NBA referee Mike Mathis led a session on the court discussing officiating with the players, who wrapped up the morning session by shooting free throws. All that was just the final half-hour of a practice that also included players rotating to stations to break down portions of the team's offense and defense as well as some scrimmaging.
For the first practice of the year, Hill asked a lot of his players and felt good about the way they responded.
"Running a training camp with this many players takes the effort of a lot of people," said Hill. "I'll be honest - I was concerned about the execution of the practice and everybody just did a perfect job. It was a great day. The players deserve a lot of credit and the assistant coaches, they're working this year. They're going to be coaching and working and growing. Everybody did a really good job. I'm very pleased."
Aiding Hill's effort was the fact that, for many of the players in camp, the lessons were more about reminding of or refining what they learned last season, when Hill took over in January, than teaching from scratch.
"The retention levels today were very high," Hill explained. "We broke things way down and taught it and they understand it better."
Another plus was the fact that players have already individually been working on some of the drills while working out in at The Furtado Center over the last month in preparation for training camp.
"The running drills that we did at the beginning and the end, we did those on our own before we played pickup games, so everybody knew it," said Allen. "It wasn't like you had to teach everybody."
With a one-hour session looming tonight in the first day of two-a-days, Sonics players quickly hustled off the floor after finishing up their shooting to get in a workout or get their rest. Their performance left Hill excited for the rest of training camp still to come.
"Today's practice was terrific," concluded Hill. "The retention levels were high, the effort was fantastic, they talked more today than they did all last year on defense. If today's an indication of where we start and we continue to get better, this training camp is going to be very successful."