Thunder Puts Focus on Defense, Details on Day 2
Defense and attention to detail have been the primary focus early in Thunder Training Camp 2011, but before taking the court, the Thunder players grabbed a seat for a statistical presentation.
Head Coach Scott Brooks used numbers from the 2010-11 season to drive home his point: if the Thunder is to become the elite team it strives to be, it has to get better -- and be more consistent -- on the defensive end of the court. Brooks and veteran Nick Collison each talked after practice about the film shown before camp began, noting the Thunder is a much stronger defensive team in the third and fourth quarters than it is in the first 24 minutes of play.
"We have to do a better job of starting the game off with a defensive mindset," Brooks said. "As the game went along, the competitive juices took over. ... We've always finished the games. The third and fourth quarters, you knew teams were going to have a tough time scoring on us. We have to have that approach to start the games."
Added Collison: "The thing with us is our consistency. We knew we were capable of being really good defensively, but we didn't have the focus to do it for 48 minutes. That's going to be the push for this year, to have longer stretches of really good defense and being locked in. If we want to try to compete for a championship, we have to be one of the best in the league in defensive field goal percentages. The stats don't lie. ... Those are things we really have to be better at."
So with that, the Thunder took to the courts in the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center and had a practice that was as intense but more physical than its first practice. "That was by design," Brooks said, noting the Thunder would hold a second practice later Saturday where it would work on shooting drills, player development and stretching.
Brooks said one-third of Saturday's morning practice was devoted to scrimmage play. The majority of the session was spent on defensive drills.
"You want to have a good mixture of both (offense and defense), but we have to still realize defense is the most important," Brooks said. "It's our defense that allows us to score. We're one of the best teams in the league in scoring off defensive turnovers."
Collison described the play as "a little bit ugly," but noted that was typical early in camp. "The first two days of camp are always a little bit ugly, but always high energy," he said. "Guys are really competing and active. The basketball is not that pretty, but that's the way it is. The defense is always ahead of the offense in this situation, but we've had two really good days."
Brooks agreed, saying: "Defense always wins the first so many days of camp. You want it to be physical, you want it to be a rough half-court presence on the defensive end and that takes away your offense. We're not calling any fouls. We're letting things go. The games will take care of that when you get the referees involved, but right now the defense is ahead."
Another point of emphasis being stressed in camp is attention to details. Brooks said it was a topic in the preseason meeting and will continue to be stressed on a daily basis.
"We talk about it with every drill: Precision. You have to really dial in and lock in on every possession," he said. "When we want a screen set, and the ball to move, we want the timing to be correct. We don't want the guy to be open and other guy doesn't have the ball. Those are the things we will work on, the gamesmanship we will improve on. Those are the things we've talked about for the three years I've been here."
CATCHING UP WITH THABO: Thabo Sefolosha, a native of Switzerland, met with the media following practice, and the first topic was his time spent playing with a Turkish team.
Why Turkey: "It was a good situation for me, playing in the Euro League. It was a good level of play, only one game a week there so that allowed me to work on my game. Switzerland, let's say basketball is not really that big. For me, playing at a high-level competition, being ready and stay in shape, that was really important to me." Sefolosha, a defensive stopper in the NBA, led his team in scoring. He was asked if he could do more offensively with the Thunder. "That's not my role here," he said.
Brooks was asked the same question: "One of the things, when you have a good team, you need sacrifice from all players. I will say this: Thabo sacrifices every night -- his body, parts of his game. We don't look for him to score ... we have enough scorers."
- DAEQUAN COOK BACK ON COURT: Daequan Cook participated in his first practice of Thunder Training Camp, and he couldn't have been happier. He was asked, what makes the Thunder organization so special? "Everything. From working hard everyday to the brotherhood, the togetherness they have on this team. ... Everything is done together. Nobody is left out. That's important. To gain the chemistry, you have to be able to do everything together. They stand up for each other. That's what they do on this team."