Last Days of Camp a Chance to Improve




#35
KEVIN
DURANT


From Day One in Oklahoma City, during good times and bad, Kevin Durant has led with dignity and humility. Alongside key team leaders like Nick Collison and Russell Westbrook, Durant has built and elevated the standards by which the Thunder plays year-in and year-out.

Heading into his seventh NBA campaign, Durant has approached his work with the same vigor that he did in his first year. These days, however, he’s been able to use his talents to not just improve his own game but the way the entire team plays. From helping the squad dedicate itself to defense and evolve offensively, Durant carries much responsibility, but divvies out the credit to teammates and staff. As this year’s version of the Thunder comes together in training camp, the perennial All-Star couldn’t be happier with the people around him.

“This group of guys is a great group of guys and everyone should just enjoy it and love watching us play because we do it all for our city,” Durant said

On the court, Durant has become one of the most efficient scorers in the league while also improving every aspect of his game – rebounding, defense and playmaking for others. In the community, Durant has been just as dynamic. After the May 20th tornado, Durant donated $1 million and flew in from out of town the next day to be with his town. Having spent every minute of the Thunder’s history with the team and being on the ground floor when it arrived in Oklahoma City provides Durant with a unique perspective in addition to a sense of pride for his organization, and the city’s people.

“We’ve been through a lot as a community,” Durant said. “Having ‘Oklahoma City’ across our chest, that means a lot. It’s kind of like we’re the underdogs fighting against a bigger city. I think we hold our own every single year no matter who we play.”

“When you’re talking about the best organization in sports, you have to put Oklahoma City in there and that feels good just to see our name with some of the bigger cities,” Durant continued. “I’m glad I get the opportunity to help with that.”

The preseason games are over and the roster has been trimmed to 14. To steal a word from guard Derek Fisher, the Thunder is in its “bunker” as a team and gearing up for the regular season.

On Friday, the Thunder took part in its first practice after the completion of its preseason slate, with an opportunity to get on the floor at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center to get better. As Head Coach Scott Brooks and forward Nick Collison described, the Thunder uses its almost two-hour practices to work on all facets of the game, from team defense to shooting to rebounding, including every tiny aspect of the game that makes the difference between winning and losing.

“We want to take advantage of every opportunity in practice,” Brooks said. “We don’t discount any minute that we put our guys on the floor.”

“We really focus on the little things and paying attention to details,” Brooks continued. “Those are the things that win games and they add up. You can never take them for granted.”

The Thunder finished the preseason with a 4-3 record, but just as in the regular season, it doesn’t measure itself against the results on the scoreboard, but rather how the team is playing during its minutes on the court. There’s a pace, a tempo and an attitude that the Thunder wants to carry itself with on the floor in practice and in games, and it all stems from the firm mental approach that ensures that every player works as hard as possible to improve each day.

“It’s a mentality,” Fisher said. “The physical part takes care of itself. You come into work every day and do the things you need to do physically. It’s about our mindset and mental approach to things. So far we’re doing a good job, but we’re always striving to be great at this business.”

As for Thursday’s practice, the Thunder’s attention was high and its energy level consistent. For a team with continuity and as Fisher said, “corporate knowledge”, there is plenty of familiarity with one another on the roster, making practices run quickly and smoothly. Despite the preseason ending and Oct. 30th’s season opener around the corner, the Thunder has prided itself on maintaining balance and being steady in its approach during each film session and practice.

“We had good energy and we were sharp,” Collison said “We’re in a good spot, getting ready for the season… We work on everything. In an hour and a half, we have a lot of time, so we get a lot done.”

“We’re trying to practice the same way every day,” Collison continued. In the back of everyone’s minds we know the games are coming for real, but we hope that we’re sharp every day we come out here.”

While the whole team goes through drills in order to build habits over time, each player is also focused on specific areas of the game to improve upon. Collison broke down why he might be stepping a foot or so further back to take corner three-pointers from time-to-time this season. Jeremy Lamb said that he is going to continue to focus on coming off of screens and the angles he’s taking on pin-downs. All 14 players on the Thunder’s roster are on the practice floor with a purpose and a role, and all that’s left for them to do is diligently hone their craft and stay ready for their number to be called.

“I’m just going to continue to work and I’m sure the whole team will too,” Lamb explained. “We’re an organization that really works hard, we’re professionals and we’re going to continue to do that.”