Thunder Touches Down in Turkey, Continues Camp
Regardless of draft position, contract status and spot in the rotation, every player on the Thunder roster is relied upon to make an impact. Second year man and off-season acquisition Diante Garrett’s role might not be completely defined thus far in training camp, but he’s hoping to mesh with the rest of the team and find a niche.
After spending one year with the Phoenix Suns, Garrett signed with the Thunder this off-season and has been blown away by the synergy within the organization.
“Everybody is on the same page,” Garrett said. “The coaches, the trainers, the players, it seems like everybody is just on the same path. Everyone has the same goals… It’s a winning environment.”
Garrett spent four seasons at Iowa State where he averaged 10.7 points, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game for his career, including his senior year when he played 36.7 minutes per game and averaged 17.3 points, 6.1 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals. During his one year with the Phoenix Suns, Garrett saw action in 19 games, averaging 2.1 points and 1.6 assists per contest. He also played eight games for the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam, where he scored 17.3 points and handed out 7.3 assists per contest.
This summer, Garrett participated in voluntary workouts at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center with numerous other players. By working with Director of Athletic Performance Dwight Daub in the Thunder’s outdoor and indoor training areas in addition to competing on the floor with his new teammates, Garrett prepared himself for training camp. The Thunder now has a handful of practices under its belt, and the time Garrett spent in Oklahoma City this offseason gave him a chance to fit in seamlessly with the team on and off the floor.
“Everybody has that will to win,” Garrett said. “They want to be the best team in the NBA… I think being a part of that is going to bring the best out of me.”
“It’s been all positive good energy to get better every day,” Garrett continued.
“I know a lot that I didn’t know last year,” Jones continued. “I think that’ll help me a lot going forward in making me a better player.”
As the plane swept just a bit lower during its final descent, the Thunder got its first glimpse of Istanbul. The sprawling metropolis spanned before the team, with the majestic, azure Bosphorus Strait slicing the city in half and providing a beautiful view from all directions.
After 15 hours of travel, including a pit stop in Iceland, the Thunder was ecstatic to get readjusted and start working once again in the first of its two European home bases. Istanbul, one of the world’s most populous cities, will be the Thunder’s home away from home for training camp for the next two-and-a-half days before the team heads to Manchester, UK for three days to continue its preparations for the regular season. In each city, the Thunder will practice, take part in a community outreach event and play a preseason game.
On Thursday, when the team landed at about noon it immediately was greeted by a representative of the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey upon arrival at its hotel. After recharging its batteries, the team took part in a light practice session to make sure it stays sharp during camp and to get everyone’s bodies in motion to make up for the long trip.
Thunder players are slated to attend two separate community events, including one in conjunction with the Special Olympics on Friday. After that, the Thunder will laser in on its true focus during its overseas trip- improving as a team. With a full practice on Friday afternoon, the team will prepare for its first preseason game of the season on Saturday against Fenerbahce Ulker, one of the premier Turkish clubs. The game will air at 8:00 a.m. CT on NBATV. After going against one another all offseason and in the first week of training camp, it is a welcome opportunity for the Thunder to go against new blood.
“I’m just ready to get out there and play against some new opponents,” guard Reggie Jackson said. “It’s always fun playing with these guys and playing against them, but I think we’re ready to get out there and just be competitive against some new guys and figure out what everybody has worked on this summer and what we have to work on to continue to get better this year.”
As soon as Saturday’s contest is over, the Thunder will travel to Manchester, getting a much needed day off day on Sunday. On Monday, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team will return to the practice court and once again donate their time to the local community. The Thunder will square off against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night before returning to Oklahoma City early Wednesday morning. The second preseason game of the year tips off at 2:00 p.m. CT, airs on NBATV and will be broadcast on the Thunder Radio Network.
The itinerary is laid out in front of the Thunder, and now it is up to the team as a whole, led by veterans like Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins, to make the most of the time overseas. The ability to not let any distractions faze them while continuing to get important work in during training camp is crucial. That’s why the Thunder is treating its practices and games in Europe just like it would if the team was in Oklahoma City.
As the team battles through the inherent challenges of travel, working in a foreign country and having different resources at its disposal, it will be a formative time in the squad’s collective growth. Over the years, the Thunder has been successful at building a cohesive team that works well together on the court and also off of it. This time abroad will give the Thunder a chance to become unified and share experiences early in the year, giving the team a foundation of trust and support well before the season begins.
“We’re just going to continue coming together and we get to bond more,” Perkins said. “We’ve been around each other and we’ve learned things we need to know about the new guys and the new guys are learning different things about the older vets. I think it’s just a good thing to be in another country, see different things and spend time with each other.”
“It carries over to the court,” Perkins continued. “The team that has the strongest bonds off the court, it carries over with the chemistry. I’m going to try my best to do that.”