2013-14 Exit Interviews - Day Two
While Head Coach Scott Brooks and veteran Thunder players met with the media for a season-ending session on Sunday, some of the younger players had their chance on Monday to outline their thoughts on the 2013-14 season and their goals for the summer.
DAY 1 EXIT INTERVIEWS
Andre Roberson- 12:20 p.m.
In his MVP acceptance speech, Kevin Durant called him one of his favorite teammates ever. To the Thunder, Andre Roberson was the consummate professional, even as a rookie.
As a defensive sparkplug whose instincts and athleticism allow him to be a high level rebounder, Roberson found a way to impact the game for the Thunder both on and off the floor in 2013-14. Because of injuries throughout the year, Roberson started 16 games and was trusted to defend shooting guards from Kobe Bryant to DeMar Derozan and everyone in between. He showed flashes of what the Thunder believes he can become with more development, so this offseason Roberson will continue to work with the coaching staff to improve both his physical and mental habits to ensure he’s ready to be a contributor on both ends of the floor next season.
“Get better in the weight room, work on my game every day, continue to grow as a person and take advantage of the opportunities given to me at hand,” Roberson said. “Then get ready for Summer League as well as next season.”
“It’s a little bit of everything, as well as the mental aspect of the game, whether it’s schemes or strategy of the game,” Roberson explained. “Little stuff like that can always help a young player like me out.”
Every single day for the past eight months, Andre Roberson has honed his routine and worked with assistant coaches on the form of his jump shot. At the beginning of the season, his motion wasn’t ideal, but as the season progressed, it was evident even in pregame warmups and at shoot around that Roberson was becoming increasingly comfortable with his mechanics. Roberson knows that in order to become a complete player, rounding out his defensive and rebounding abilities, maximizing his offensive arsenal will be essential to his ability to see playing time.
“I’ve been changing my shot since I got here, so it’s been a transition for me,” Roberson said. “I’m going hard every day and sticking with it. It’s a process with the shot. You can’t change it overnight.”
Steven Adams - 12:00 p.m.
Poise and composure are words not typically associated with rookies in the NBA, but throughout the 2013-14 season, Steven Adams displayed both of those qualities regularly.
The center who played one year at the University of Pittsburgh before being selected 12th overall by the Thunder in the 2013 NBA Draft saw significant playing time during his first season with the Thunder, registering a double-double in just his fifth professional game, and then another in a Game 6 closeout victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals. Throughout the year, Adams progressed on both ends of the floor, eventually shooting 68.9 percent from the floor in the playoffs while also playing solid defense.
“In terms of progress, we set out a routine and just stuck through it throughout the whole year and kept it consistent,” Adams said. “They do that with every player, so I was just following the same thing.”
Heading into the summer and next season, Adams will continue working with the Thunder’s assistant coaches and be participating in Summer League in Orlando in early July. Through film study and on-court work to hone defensive fundamentals and positioning on the offensive end, Adams hopes to continue developing to become a well-rounded player next year.
From working on his free throw shooting and his touch around the basket to his one-on-one post defense and the timing of his rotations, Adams knows he has a lot of work to do before next season. By sticking with the same routine and principles that helped him build good habits during the year, Adams hopes to hone his craft even more this offseason.
“It’s just sticking to the same routine and just kind of intensifying that more,” Adams said. “I reached a pretty good platform right now. It’s time to really solidify that and build on it and try to make an even bigger step. That’s the goal for me personally, just really trying to do stuff a lot more intensely, work even harder now that I have a year and am familiar with the whole season.”
“I still have a ton more to learn,” Adams explained. “I think I made a good step this year. It’s nowhere near what I think I need to learn and get into good habits and be as smart as going and working out on my own. I’m definitely going to stick around them as much as I can and try to get as much knowledge and try to learn the game.”
Perry Jones - 11:45 a.m.
Kevin Durant called Perry Jones the most athletic player in the NBA. With his combination of size, speed, length and leaping ability, that is certainly a distinct possibility. The key for Jones moving forward, in his mind, is to harness those gifts into the product he puts on the basketball floor each night.
From being thrust into the starting lineup for the second half of a regular season game against the Miami Heat to defend LeBron James to switching onto point guards throughout the year, Jones showed flashes of being a multi-tool defender. Within the Thunder’s team concept, there may be a spot for Jones to contribute as a man who can defend all five positions on the floor. Heading into this summer, putting in the work to become a multipurpose defender is at the top of Jones’ list.
“It’s mostly my defense,” Jones said. “I want to be able to guard anybody at any time. You never know, if somebody gets in foul trouble, coach can put me in and I can help the team no matter who it is.”
“I see myself being more versatile,” Jones said. “There are lot of things I can do on the basketball court and a lot of things I can do with the ball. I just have to go out there and find my niche whether it’s defense or offense. It all depends on how I develop going forward and how I can help this team win.”
On the offensive end, Jones made strides in 2013-14, going from attempting just two three-pointers in his rookie season to knocking down 22-of-61 attempts in his second year, good for 36 percent. If Jones can continue to increase that percentage, it will give him the ability spread the floor for the Thunder. Not only does that help open up driving lanes and backdoor cuts for Jones himself, but it also could lighten the load for the Thunder’s primary playmakers like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson.
“If I keep shooting that well, it’ll open up things like driving and attacking the paint,” Jones explained. “It’ll also get other guys open shots and open looks. Hopefully it takes pressure off of Kevin and Russ and make their jobs easier.”
Although he didn’t see a ton of minutes down the stretch, Jones was a vital piece of the puzzle during the regular season as he started seven games and saw action in 62 contests. Perhaps the most impressive feat Jones accomplished was being locked in every night on opposing personnel and what his job was in those situations when his number was called. Constant vigilance, even when playing time seemed unlikely, allowed Jones to find success.
“Every game, no matter what happens, I’m going to prepare myself like I’m going to play at least 15 to 20 minutes,” Jones said. “If my name doesn’t get called, then it doesn’t get called. If it does, then I’m already prepared that I’m going to play 20 minutes today. I’m always watching film and getting my mind right, going over plays and everything.”
Jeremy Lamb - 11:15 a.m.
Being a second-year player on a 59-win NBA team can be a tough task, but Jeremy Lamb found ways to make an impact, even if his minutes weren’t consistent throughout the year.
Early on, Lamb was in the Thunder’s rotation and even lit up the stat sheet with a career-high 22 points against the Houston Rockets and 19 points, including the game-winning jumper, on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers. Heading into the summer, Lamb hopes to continue to craft and fine tune his game in order to be an important part of the Thunder’s rotation next season. Offensively, Lamb’s jump shot is an asset, but he wants to be able to keep the defense honest with drives to the paint and his ability to create for others.
“Probably my handle and attacking the rim, those will probably be the biggest things I’ll work on,” Lamb said.
“I want to help the team in any way possible, really,” Lamb said. “If that is coming in and playing defense, coming in and scoring or whatever the team needs most, that’s what I want to do.”
Throughout the year, Lamb also managed to show flashes on the defensive end because of his length, leaping ability and rebounding. Although he wants to add more strength, Lamb also believes the most important aspect of improving his defense this summer will be playing one-on-one in addition to working out with teammates at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center. In order to be able to contribute for extended minutes next year, Lamb knows that he’ll have to be a true two-way player.
“Seeing these players who will lock you up and then go score on you, that motivates me,” Lamb explained. “I’m definitely going to work on my defense and come back a much better defensive player. That will help me be a whole overall player. When you disrupt on both ends of the floor, that’s huge.”
Hasheem Thabeet - 10:30 a.m.
Up by 20 or down by 20, one of the constants on the Thunder sidelines this season was the perpetual positivity and energy of Hasheem Thabeet.
The Thunder’s backup center didn’t rack up a ton of minutes on the court this year, but he always managed to have a great attitude and continued to work hard to stay ready. In team huddles, in the locker room and on the road, Thabeet made sure everyone on the squad, and in the organization, was feeling good about themselves and like an integral part of the group. His passion for his teammates has been an undeniably positive force over the past two years in Oklahoma City.
“It’s been a great two years of my life being out here in Oklahoma,” Thabeet said. “A whole lot of guys, I know them outside of basketball. So to be a part of this brings us even closer together. It’s been a great run.”
“Everybody is young, everybody competes, everybody loves each other and we joke around,” Thabeet continued. “That is what makes us come closer together every day. We hang out with each other, we go to each other’s houses and we know where everybody lives. That’s been a great key for us.”
Despite not playing for much of the season, Thabeet was diligent and consistent in his work, and ready when his name was called. When Kendrick Perkins went down with an injury right after the All-Star Break, Thabeet was suddenly thrust into the rotation. In three consecutive games Thabeet played 17, 18 and 18 minutes, and all three games ended in Thunder wins, including a tightly contested 113-107 home win over the Memphis Grizzlies. In fact, in the seven games this year that Thabeet played ten-or-more minutes, the Thunder went 6-1.
“I just can’t stop working because you never know what is going to happen in this league,” Thabeet explained. “I kept working and kept believing. My teammates kept telling me to keep going. Big man coach Mark Bryant has been motivating me on staying ready. When the time was called, I was able to and produced.”