International Trip an Opportunity for Thunder
When it comes to a building a team, the Thunder knows that balance and stability are key. This offseason, the Thunder re-signed veteran guard Derek Fisher, who has spent part of each of the past two seasons with the squad and helps provide both aforementioned qualities, among many more.
The five-time NBA champion has filled had a number of duties on and off the floor for the team over the past two years, but regardless of what his exact role will be this year, Fisher knows that he can bring leadership and experience. By getting the opportunity to mesh with the Thunder’s young core, particularly its rookies and second-year players, from the beginning of the season, Fisher can make an extra impact.
“It’s going to be a special ride this year not just for myself but for our team,” Fisher said. “I’m excited to be here from Day One. I think a lot of the things that I can do to help a team be successful, the impact can be felt more being here for the entire season. I’m looking forward to it.”
As one of the 12 players returning from last season’s roster, Fisher understands the Thunder’s system and knows how to communicate it to others effectively. With the nucleus of the team intact from a year ago, Fisher believes that the Thunder will continue the ascent it has made over the past five years in terms of the way it plays. By playing together as a team and utilizing one another’s strengths to both get the best shot available and to slow down opponents as a unit, the Thunder has a chance to step up its performance to another level.
“I think the consistency is there, but we have to continue to find ways to bring it to life in the way we play,” Fisher said. “I think this year we want to show continuity and fluidity through how we execute and how we play with one another that is not just years on the roster together. You should see some things with the way we play that should speak to that.”
A world away, through the bustling streets of Istanbul and the historic avenues of Manchester, it will be up to the Thunder to find a way to make themselves feel at home.
On Wednesday, the Thunder embarks overseas to play two preseason games as a part of the NBA’s Global Games, an annual outreach program to countries all over the world. This year eight different teams will be playing a total of eight games over a two-week span. Kicking off the action with the very first preseason game of the year will be the Thunder, taking on the Turkish club Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul on October 5th. Three days later, the Thunder will square off against the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, England. In between, the Thunder will be practicing, participating in outreach efforts and hosting community events to spread the game of basketball and represent Oklahoma City.
The trip will be a wonderful opportunity for the young Thunder organization, in just its sixth season, to expand its brand and display itself on an international stage. At the same time, the team knows it must tackle the inherent challenges that the travel causes with a focused mindset.
“It’s an honor for us to be chosen to go play overseas and represent Oklahoma City outside of the United States,” Thunder General Manager Sam Presti said. "How we use that time will be important. It’s still ‘time on the clock,’ so to speak, for us during training camp. All of that time amounts and aggregates for the end of the season so I think there are all kinds of ways it could be helpful, but it’s what we make of it.”
With four training camp practice days under its belt in preparation for the 2013-14 season, the Thunder knows it must capitalize on every opportunity it has while overseas to continue to get better. The continuity and leadership that exists on the Thunder’s roster will help the process as the team treats its two games, practices and shoot-arounds the same way it would if it were at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center.
This is still training camp, a highly important part of the yearly schedule, so despite the international travel the team’s daily goals remain the same – to improve as a team and to build team chemistry on and off the floor. It will be up to Head Coach Scott Brooks and team leaders to help the squad keep an even keel and maintain a level of maturity and professionalism about them at all times to handle any elements that might be thrown its way.
“The good thing about it is that we like each other, so road trips are good,” Brooks said. “We make things work on the road. It’s going to be a time to bond early in the season.”
“It’s all about camaraderie and coming together as brothers,” Durant explained. “There’s no better place to do it. Overseas you don’t know anything, don’t know anybody and don’t know the language, so we have to stick together and I think it’s going to help us out.”
Each day on the floor both in practice and in games, the Thunder goes into battle, so it’s no surprise that many of the team’s players have referenced that type of mindset in regards to the entire preseason, including the impending trip. As teams gel on the court, there is a particular off-court bonding process that goes on as well – beyond simply hanging out and eating meals together.
Feeling a sense of brotherhood is crucial, and when the Thunder is put in these situations abroad where all they have to rely on are their teammates, coaches and staffers, it will be a chance to come together as one. Building the team now, in October, can only strengthen it as it moves forward through the month and into the regular season.
“You immediately you get time together as just a small group of people and you immediately go into the bunker as basketball players, coaches the training staff and that’s it,” veteran guard Derek Fisher said. “Right from the beginning of the season, you walk right into the bunker and you don’t have to come out when you come back from Europe.”
“We can go take care of our business, be ambassadors of the game and do what we have to do,” Fisher continued. “But at the end of the day it’s about us and who we are.”