Thunder Mailbag: Training Camp, Week 1
Thunder fans throughout the Oklahoma City area and around the world are some of the most passionate in professional sports. Whether it's finding out about specific players, asking basketball-related questions or gaining additional insight into the team, Thunder fans are hungry for as much information about their squad as possible.
This season, in an effort to answer some of the questions that are on your mind, Thunder Basketball Writer Nick Gallo will produce a Thunder Mailbag every Wednesday throughout the NBA season.
If you have a question for the team, one of the players, coaches or myself, you can email email@example.com or send your question in via Twitter by using the hashtag #thundermailbag. These questions and answers will be featured on THUNDER.NBA.COM and also may be displayed elsewhere such as Game Night programs and Thunder Magazine.
Here are your questions from Week 1 of Training Camp, and responses from your Thunder. Keep the questions coming and you could be featured in next week's mailbag!
#thundermailbag How can the international competitions help KD, Russell and James, and also how can their Ffinals experience help them?? - @OKCTHUNDERFANNN
Across the board, the Thunder players and coaching staff have said that both the players' experiences in last year's Playoffs and their time at the Olympics was very beneficial. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden enjoyed their time winning the Gold medal with Team USA, and Serge Ibaka gained valuable experience winning the Silver medal with Team Spain. Here's what Durant said about his Team USA experience in an exclusive interview with thunder.nba.com.
"My role was a little different playing with Team USA as opposed to when I'm on the Thunder," Durant said. "So I learned a lot about myself as a player. I think half the game is mental. Watching other guys and approaching the game like I did, I think I learned in that aspect. I also learned how to be a better leader and hopefully I bring it back to OKC and become a better player. I know I have a long way to go, I just have to keep improving."
Being alongside Westbrook and Harden, in addition to play against Ibaka twice during the Olympics also gave Durant a unique opportunity to assess how his Thunder teammates fared in London. The takeaway message from what Durant had to say is that because of their new roles, the trio of Durant's Thunder teammates all displayed great team-first attitudes and improved their games at the same time.
"I know James and Russ sacrificed a lot, and also Serge sacrificed a lot for the betterment of the team," Durant said. "You like to see that in guys, main pieces to a good team. Serge came out and did his role really well, played hard for Spain. ... Those guys did a great job and they got better throughout the summer. I'm looking forward to having them in OKC this season."
@ end of season @nickcollison4 talked about getting more aggressive w shooting. Can we expect to see that this season? #thundermailbag - @alecia8
At Exit Interviews in June, Collison mentioned that he wanted to be more aggressive with his shooting this year. After the Thunder's first practice official practice of the 2012-13 season on Tuesday, Collison was asked about that exact topic. While the always humble Collison declined to mention that part of it has to do with the fact that he led the NBA with 63.2 percent shooting on jump shots between 15-19 feet among players with more than 10 attempts. The other reason, however, is because of the way teams defend the Thunder on a nightly basis, which he explained on Tuesday.
"I want to look for open shots and be an option," Collison said. "The way teams play us, they jump pick-and-rolls and we have to be able to throw out and hit shots. I shot the ball well last year. I just want to be able to make some more opportunities for myself."
@okcthunder #thundermailbag What does the team need to do different and/or train better for this season at in order to make the Finals again and win it? - @AirRick12
The refrain from Thunder players throughout the press conference sessions at Monday's Media Day is that while getting back to the NBA Finals is obviously a goal -– it's the goal of every NBA team in October -– they aren't looking that far down the road. Instead, the players are honing in on their workout and practice responsibilities this week to try to use each day to incrementally improve as individuals and as a team.
"It's not guaranteed to get there every single year," Durant said. "Of course we're honored (we went) and want to get back. Every team is hungry and wants to win a championship. We just have to take it a day at a time."
From Kendrick Perkins to Russell Westbrook, each player that stepped to the microphone at Media Day said there will be a lot of steps in the journey that the Thunder must take seriously and focus deeply on if it wants to have the chance to make another Playoff run. Whether it's defensive rotations, communication or making the extra pass, the little things will be the most important part of the Thunder's development this season.
"Just focusing on the details," Thabo Sefolosha said. "I think there are a lot of things that we can do even better. I think it's going to take all of us to be focused at every practice and come in with the right mindset every game to make that next step."
Kevin Durant, are you excited about this upcoming NBA (season)? Do you have any goals for yourself and your team this season? #thundermailbag - @Exia_Atreides
From the jovial attitudes at Media Day and the two-and-a-half-hour, high-intensity practice that occurred on Tuesday morning at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, it's clear the Thunder is excited about the upcoming season. Just watching the players and coaching staff interact with one another, the atmosphere resembled the first day of school where a bunch of friends reunited and got back to work together.
"It feels good to be back in here with them and working to try to have a good season," Durant said. "We're looking forward to tomorrow and just getting better."
The Thunder's goals normally aren't focused individually or on things that are outside of their control, but rather what each player and the team collectively can do to ensure their standards are upheld. As a result, the biggest goal for Durant and the Thunder this season is to maintain the levels of work ethic that have been consistent with the Thunder franchise since the team arrived in Oklahoma City, in addition to taking the journey of the season in stride.
"That's the approach we'll bring to this group, to take it one day at a time, enjoy this process," Durant said. "We know it's going to be a tough, long road full of ups and downs."
When are the Thunder playing their exhibition game this? Do you know where yet? - Steve Mattern (via e-mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Thunder's schedule for 2012-13 can be found at https://www.nba.com/thunder/schedule. To answer your question, Steve, the Thunder is slated to play seven pre-season games this year, including two "home" games outside of Oklahoma City. The team starts off by traveling to Hidalgo, Texas, on Wednesday, Oct. 10 to play against the Houston Rockets at the State Farm Arena, then will fly up to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz on Friday, Oct. 12. The Thunder then hosts its first home preseason game on Tuesday, Oct. 16 when it takes on the Charlotte Bobcats. Two nights later, the Thunder travels to Tulsa to host the Phoenix Suns at the BOK Center. Tickets for the game against Phoenix can be purchased at bokcenter.com.
After hosting the Denver Nuggets in its final preseason game at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, Oct. 21, the Thunder will hit the road to play the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Chicago before completing its preseason schedule by hosting the Dallas Mavericks at the INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan., on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Tickets for the game against Dallas can be purchased at intrustbankarena.com, and tickets for the two preseason games at Chesapeake Energy Arena can be found here or at thunder.nba.com.