Problem Solving in the Thunder’s Nature

Over the years in Oklahoma City, the Thunder has always been able to work together to successfully tackle problems.

On Monday the team got straight to work at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, with its focus on its defense, offense and every aspect of the game in between. With a practice on the floor and then a film session, the self-aware Thunder was able to both work physically on execution and then concentrate mentally on shoring up some mistakes over the past couple of games.

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club has always had a collaborative nature in its approach, with the group helping one another get better behind the leadership of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison. The coaching staff and players spent Monday sharpening its tools to play a much better game overall, and particularly on defense when it hosts the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.

“We got back in the gym,” Brooks said. “We worked on a lot of defensive things that we have to get better at. One of the things I love about our group is that we’ve always tried to figure out ways to do it together, whether we won a game or are not playing well and losing a game. We still want to figure out how to get better together.”

The Thunder derives its confidence from the continuity that exists within the locker room and on the coaching staff, where both players and those in the building trust one another to do their jobs to the best of their ability. With communication, cooperation and dedication, the Thunder has found success in the past when faced with challenges, and it expects to be able to get past its current defensive struggle with the same type of work.

“We have to continue to put it on the floor and we will,” Brooks said. “I have a lot of confidence in the group. I have a lot of confidence in our core guys. We have a great nucleus that has been around and understands how we play and we’ll get back to doing that.”

“I’m confident,” Collison echoed. “We’ve done it before. Overall, we’re a good defensive team. That’s who we have been.”

Getting down to specifics, the Thunder’s prime area of focus is in its defensive coverages, communication and focus. Closeouts must be firmer, on-ball defense must be tighter and players have to talk to one another throughout the entirety of the possession to ensure everyone is in the proper spot. Western Conference foes are moving more-and-more to a small-ball, drive-and-dish for three-point attempts style of play, which means the Thunder has to adjust accordingly in its defensive coverages.

“We have to have the proper mindset of being aware and getting into our defensive thoughts right away after that shot goes up,” Brooks explained. “Those are the things that we worked on today and in the film room. Bit by bit, we will get better. We still have some time to improve in those areas.”

Fortunately, every Thunder player, coach and staffer holds each other accountable for effort, energy, and execution not just in the games, but on the practice floor and film room. The standards that have been set in Oklahoma City deem that every person gives their all towards getting better, which is what the team did on Monday as it tries to transfer it all onto the game floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena tomorrow night.

“It’s being honest with ourselves and recognizing that there is slippage in our play and then correcting it quickly and not letting it fester,” Collison explained. “We’ve done a good job here of trying to do the work today and going day by day. That’s been our mantra here.”