Roles Will Continue Evolving This Season
High-level NBA teams have hard working players who are willing to sacrifice their bodies, their egos and their individual stats for the greater good of the team. The Thunder roster is filled with those types of men, which gives Head Coach Scott Brooks not just confidence, but also freedom.
As the season moves forward, the necessary sacrifices for each player will become apparent, and roles will become more defined. All 14 men have a vital part in the team’s overall success, whether it be in game action, in the film room or on the practice floor, and the tenor for those contributions was set in October, even when some players weren’t sure what, if any, role they would have on the squad. The Thunder benefitted from continuity on the roster, which helped the team jump right into work with an understanding of the standards and work habits that have been in place for years in Oklahoma City.
“As the training camp evolved, I saw things that were good that were going to help us,” Brooks said. “The team is trying to figure out the combinations.”
The Thunder’s starting lineup that has led the team to a better regular season record each of the last three seasons is intact, and the reserve group is filled with veterans like Nick Collison and Derek Fisher along with intriguing young players like Reggie Jackson. The amount of playing time, the combinations and rotations amongst all of the players on the roster will be solidified as the year progresses, but for now, each player has only one focus when they’re on the court.
“That role is to play as hard as you can for your teammates,” Brooks explained. “The scoring and the minutes work themselves out. Those are the areas that are probably going to change as the season goes along.”
“We just go and play,” Jackson said. “I’m comfortable being with my guys, the guys I practice with a lot. Everybody kind of has a comfort.”
With Russell Westbrook back in the fold for the Thunder, Jackson has been allowed to go back to his original role of backup point guard, but he was certainly aided over the last six months by his experience as the starter. Each year there is a re-adjustment period for every NBA team, because players improve in certain areas over the summer and there are changes to the roster.
For this Thunder squad, there will also be a bit of an adjustment period with the return of Westbrook, who plays such a dynamic part in the team’s offensive and defensive schemes. The Thunder as a unit handled the uncertainty with professionalism and class, being constantly ready to absorb Westbrook back into the lineup when he was ready to join the team on the floor. Over the coming weeks and months, Brooks and his staff will monitor and assess how the players are meshing with one another on the court and which combinations work best.
The players’ mutual understanding of one another gives them an advantage in adjusting to any role changes throughout the year makes transitions easy, because all they have to focus on is working hard and giving themselves fully to the team’s core concepts and what they’re asked to do.
“I’m encouraged by the knowledge that we’ve brought back over the summer and I thought our training camp was really good,” Brooks explained. “I like the fact that the guys, knowing that we were going to have Russell out for some time, they came back and treated it as business as usual.”
“That’s been our philosophy from day one,” Brooks continued. “We have a job to do and we want to do it every day. That’s really what we’re all about.”