Collison Eager to Build on Defensive Foundation

Nick Collison is eager to get to work and the versatile Thunder big man knows his teammates are, too.

Collison and other Thunder players gathered three times throughout the summer and fall for voluntary four-day workouts in Austin, Texas; Lexington, Ky.; and Oklahoma City.

"We thought it would be good to touch base. We didn’t do anything crazy. We played some pickup games every day and worked out four days," he said. "I don’t know if it will give us a huge advantage, but it was good. It was good just to see everybody again and break up the monotony of working out on your own. The guys look like they are in good shape and ready to go."

Training Camp 2011 is scheduled to begin on Dec. 9. Until that time, NBA players are welcome to work out at their team's practice facilities on their own, though coaches and basketball operations staff are not allowed to watch. Collison said he expects most of his teammates to be back in town by Tuesday, and hopes the players can gather for organized workouts on Wednesday and Thursday.

For Collison, his visit Friday to the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center was his first time in the new training facility since the days of studs and drywall. Like Cole Aldrich the day before, Collison was more than impressed.

"It's unbelievable. It's going to be a great asset for us as players to come here every day," he said. "We really appreciate it and appreciate the taxpayers paying for it. It will be a big advantage for us the next 10, 15, 20 years, however long we have it. It's got to be the best in the league."

Collison expects the Thunder, as a team, to be talked about in the same light. He said to do so, the Thunder must remember what brought it success last year: a commitment to defense, sharing the ball on offense and concentrating on the little things that ultimately decide between victory and defeat.

"Personnel wise, we're really set up to be a good team. We have a ton of talent; we've got guys at every position," he said. "What we need to do now is get better at playing basketball and executing basketball situations. That was exposed, I think, in that series (Western Conference Finals vs. Dallas) against a team that did it better than us and that's why they were able to beat us.

"It will be good for us now that we've had a taste of going deep in the playoffs," he said. "The disappointment of it, that will always be there to remind us and keep us motivated in each of those kind of monotonous days of practice where you're going through something to stop yourself from just going through the motions and then really think about we have to get better so that if we're in that situation again, we can hopefully win a series like that."

Collison said that mindset starts on the first day of Training Camp. He said he enjoyed the attention the Thunder received during its playoff run, but knows last season means nothing. He said it is important the Thunder continues to push for defensive consistency.

"I think a lot of people enjoy watching us play. We obviously have a lot of young talent and play hard," he said. "It is fun to be one of those teams that people are talking about and I think that creates more motivation to get back and do the work all season to get back to the point of playing in the playoffs."

On Friday, the NBA announced the Thunder will play host to the Orlando Magic on Christmas night. Game time is 7 p.m. in the newly-renovated Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"It's exciting. The league chose us to be one of those showcase games," he said. "Personally, it's great we're home so we can have family here for Christmas. We don't know after that, we might be leaving Christmas night for a back-to-back, who knows? ... I think it will be fun for the fans on opening day to have a game to go to and a game to watch."