Thunder Uses Full Week of Practice to Prepare
Andre Roberson wasn’t yet with the Thunder when the May tornadoes hit the Oklahoma City area, but shortly after he was drafted the 2013 first-round draft pick made sure his first stop in the community honored those who were a part of those tragic times.
Oklahoma City is his community now, so Roberson visited a Moore fire station to meet first responders from May 20th. Understanding the Thunder and Oklahoma City’s indelible connection, Roberson has spent much of his first few months with the team getting to know his city and its people.
“It’s been pretty great,” Roberson said. “The fans and the community have really been behind me 100 percent… This organization is very professional in giving back to the community and that’s what I’m all about as well.”
Just like the people in its city, Thunder players, coaches and staff are hard workers. Roberson has been privy to that fact ever since Summer League and through his off-season workouts with teammates, aided by staff. With the full team now in training camp, Roberson has a sense of the culture and the pride his teammates take in their daily work. As a result, the former University of Colorado standout views only one thing to be important.
“Winning games,” Roberson said. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I know that all the other guys on the team work hard to get better.”
During his third and final season at Colorado, Roberson was the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the year while averaging a double-double of 10.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. In fact, the 6-foot-7 Roberson finished second in the entire nation in rebounding during the 2012-13 season. Up next, however, will be rounding out his game. With Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Jeremy Lamb in his position group, Roberson knows he has a bevy of teammates to learn from moving forward.
“Going against them every day is going to be great,” Roberson said. “It’s going to be a challenge for me guarding other players in the league as well. They’ll help me every day getting better on defense and also help me on my offense with little tricks to help me improve my game.”
The Thunder wants to play its best basketball at the end of the season. Despite it still just being October, this past week was incredibly important to building towards that goal.
At the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center in the days since the team returned from Europe, the Thunder has been putting in crucial work against one another as the team irons out some of the wrinkles from the offseason. Installing offensive sets, reinforcing defensive principles and building an identity are all parts of the process of developing a new team each season.
That daily effort was on display on Sunday at Westmoore High School when Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team participated in its annual Blue and White Scrimmage. It was a wonderful event for Thunder fans who were in attendance, but also an integral part of the team’s improvement.
“Guys wanted to compete and go at each other,” Brooks said. “I thought it was great to be a part of the community. The people in Moore have obviously been through a lot and what we want to do is continue to support their healing process and do what we love to do, which is be out in the community.”
2013 Training Camp began in late September, but since then the Thunder hasn’t had longer than five straight days in one city to match a steady setting with its consistent work. That’s why this past week, between its second preseason game in Manchester, UK and Tuesday night’s preseason home opener against the Denver Nuggets, the Thunder has taken full advantage of its time in Oklahoma City. Once the preseason games recommence it will be just a short amount of time until the regular season arrives. As a result, this full week without a game is just what the Thunder needed to get prepared.
“We’ve been trying to use this time to work on defensive things and offensive things to help the team overall in the future,” guard Reggie Jackson explained.
The time the team has been putting in since it got back home early Wednesday morning has been a balance between on-court action, training and recovery time- all of which are critical to the process of being in prime shape come the regular season. With the season opener just over two weeks away on Oct. 30th in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz, the Thunder knows it must capitalize on every opportunity to get better.
On Monday, Brooks praised his team’s ability to do exactly that during a hard-nosed practice session that lasted over two hours.
“Today was as blue collar as we’ve ever had a practice here,” Brooks said. “I thought the guys really locked in on playing physical, old school basketball and really paying attention to the details.”
“The guys were focused and committed to getting better,” Brooks continued. “This is an important week for us. We have a lot of practice time here and we have home games so we can have good shoot-arounds on top of the good practices.”
The Thunder follows up Tuesday night’s game against Denver by taking the show slightly up the road in a tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Thursday, Oct. 17th. On Sunday, Oct. 20th the Thunder will play its final preseason game at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the Utah Jazz. In addition to the previous six days, the Thunder will have the next week to stay within the state of Oklahoma for practices and three more tune-ups.
In terms of team-building, the Thunder had a great chance to bond and create chemistry during its week-long trip to Istanbul and Manchester. Now that the squad is back in its own building every day, the cohesion that is being developed can take form more on the court, piggy-backing on the camaraderie that has already been cultivated in the locker room. After practicing with one another day-in and day-out this week and in the weeks to come as the regular season approaches, the Thunder will become a stronger, more unified group that trusts that its worth is derived from its collective work.
“We just give everybody confidence and let everybody know that we believe in what they’ve been working on,” Jackson said.