Thunder Focusing on the Details

With Training Camp 2011 in full swing, the Thunder's approach to concentrating on the details that will help it grow as a team was never more evident.

Even under the microscope of a singular practice, the Thunder’s principles to block out distractions (in this case, the fatigue from training camp) was clear in talking with Head Coach Scott Brooks at his post-practice availability.

“Today’s focus, we wanted to get up and down the court and scrimmage a little more than we’ve done in the past three days," he said. "I thought the guys fought through a little fatigue at times, but they did a good job of really fighting through it and keep charging ahead. I thought they competed all throughout the practice. Today went a little longer than we’ve done in the last three days, but that was by design to give them 10 to 15 minutes extra work."

The Thunder has identified improving its assist total as a priority for the coming season. The Thunder averaged 20.4 assists last season, placing it 23rd out of 30 teams.

Brooks stressed on Saturday that is not a directive aimed at his point guards. It is a team goal, meaning every player on the 15-man roster needs to focus on making the extra pass, particularly when the defensive has created a fast-break opportunity.

"It's something that we talked about in our preseason meeting and we continue to work on in practice," Brooks said. "It's important that we share the basketball. We have some good opportunities to score in transition that we have to capitalize on and get better at when do do get defensive stops. I thought last year we did a pretty good job of running out but we weren't always scoring. It's about converting, making the simple pass and converting the easy buckets. "It's a team thing, that's my approach, everybody focusing on making plays for each other," he said. "It doesn't matter who scores. All that matters is we score."

Brooks emphasized he's not trying to change the Thunder's aggressive style. He still wants players to attack the rim and get to the free-throw line or draw a defender to him and dish the ball to an open teammate.

"Guys understand what we’re looking to get accomplished," he said.

Thirteen players in camp were part of the Thunder's run to the Western Conference Finals last season. Brooks says that familiarity is helpful in a condensed camp, given the speed at which new things are thrown at the players. He says it is a testament to the players' work they put into understanding the game, such as film sessions with coaches or time spent after practice with coaches fine-tuning the details of a certain play or system.

"That's a very good recipe for success," he said.

  • ROYAL THE GRADUATE: Thunder guard Royal Ivey received his diploma earlier this month from the University of Texas. He earned his degree in Applied Learning & Development, fitting since he comes from a family of educators.

    "I promised myself I was going to finish," he said when asked his motivation to complete his studies. "I promised my mom and they really stress education. My mom's a school teacher, my grandmother's a school teacher. I come from a lineage of school teachers, so it's important I got my education. When I have kids, I want to be able to say, 'Yeah, I played in the NBA but I also have my degree.' It's a great feeling."

  • ALL IN A DAY'S WORK: Ivey is one of the veteran guards working with Thunder rookie Reggie Jackson, a rookie guard from Boston College. Ivey, entering his eighth year in the league, was asked to talk about mentoring a player he also is competing against for minutes.

    "It's a job. I look at it as a job. We're family, but every time we step between these lines we've got to be competitive. That's how we get better as a group," Ivey said. "Reggie's a rookie, he's a talent, but we're all competing right here. When he's in there, I'm going to help him out. When I'm against him, I'm going to push him. That's how I see it."

  • A LEARNING EXPERINCE: Forward Serge Ibaka spent his off time playing in Spain, an experience he described as "great."

    "It helped me a lot," he said. "Playing, working hard, I learned something new all the time."
    He said he is looking forward to the start of the season.

    "All I can say is I'll be ready," he said. "I'll play hard like I did last year ... and I'll try to get better."

    Said Brooks: "Serge, his game is defending the paint, the basket, blocking shots, running floor and making jump shots. I just wanted him to do those things again when he came back. He has in the first four days."