Thunder Opens Camp With Media Day
For two-and-a-half hours, players hopped from station to station at the Thunder Events Center, getting their pictures taken, giving interviews to media outlets and making an appearance in the press conference room.
One day before the Thunder practices for the first time in the 2012-13 season, Head Coach Scott Brooks and every Thunder player went through the fast-paced, rigorous Media Day that marks the beginning of each season. Starting at 1:00 p.m. CDT with Brooks, each player spent between five and ten minutes with a bevy of writers and television reporters answering questions that ranged far and wide across the on-court and off-the-court spectrum. Thunder.nba.com kept up with everything the players had to say, featuring some of the highlights below.
With Coach Brooks and 19 players who addressed the media, this break down will be split up into a Part I below and Part II here.
1:00 p.m. | Head Coach Scott Brooks
Setting the tone for the day was the Thunder’s head coach, Scott Brooks. After guiding the team to a higher winning percentage in each of the seasons he has been at the helm of the organization, Brooks has instilled a level of work ethic in his players that has become pervasive throughout the roster. Not only is it a focus for Brooks and his staff to help players improve each year, but he also wants himself and his coaching staff develop in the off-season.
“I challenge all of our players and staff to get better,” Brooks said. “We take a lot of pride in developing our players. The moment that we draft them or acquire them through trade or free agency, we expect them to improve. We do that through the work that we put in with them. Our players and our coaches are the same. They went away this summer and hopefully they’ve come back better.”
Specifically, the fifth-year head coach, who this summer re-signed with the team to stay in Oklahoma City, picks other coaches brains to find best practices. Heading into the 2012-13 season, the Thunder and its coaching staff hopes that it can find areas along the margins to improve its in-game strategies and practice habits.
“You meet with coaches at all levels,” Brooks said. “You learn from all levels. Just because you’re in the NBA, you don’t have all the answers. Some of the best things I’ve learned in this game was from my high school coach. I think our coaches have done a good job of coming back. We’ve done some good things here but we always have to look for ways to get better.”
1:10 p.m. | Cole Aldrich
Aldrich jumped into the mix immediately after Brooks finished up, and the backup big man talked about everything from his Summer League experience in Orlando to his trip with Basketball Without Borders in South Africa. The third year center had a busy summer both on and off the court, continuing to take strides in his individual development.
“I’ve had a great summer this year,” Aldrich said. “Just having another summer to get better is always great. Some guys take the summer off, but it’s a theme with our organization that summer is the time when you get better. That’s the time when you work on those things to really show off in the season.”
Throughout the last few weeks, Aldrich has been training back in Oklahoma City, helping some of the new, younger guys get acclimated to the city, organization and the team’s workout habits. It helps that Aldrich has had a consistent core of players on the Thunder roster over the past few years to help him along in the process as well.
“We got some great young guys that are going to come in and work just as hard as everybody else is,” Aldrich said. “Just to have those core guys come back, I think it really helps. They’re very familiar with each other and their games and they’re all great guys.”
1:20 p.m. | Thabo Sefolosha
The lockdown defender from Switzerland played a vital role in the Thunder’s playoff push last season, and figures to be an integral piece this season as well. Sefolosha, as one of the most veteran players on the roster, believes that it is his job to help the Thunder start fresh this season and realize that playoff appearances are never guaranteed.
“That’s the main thing for us is to never be satisfied with what we did,” Sefolosha said. “We don’t like to look back to the success that we had and take things for granted… It’s going to be us as players to motivate one another and to keep our eyes on the main goal.”
One way in which the Thunder has improved over the past few years is in its communication, concentration and cohesiveness on both the offensive and defensive ends. Moving forward, according to Sefolosha, the team needs to take it to the next level so that everyone is in sync on every play.
“Just focusing on the details,” 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.”
1:30 p.m. | Daequan Cook
Cook had an active summer in the Oklahoma City community, spending a large portion of his time working out at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center. The sharp-shooting Cook worked out with Eric Maynor the most during the past few months in addition to getting acquainted on and off the court with his new teammates.
“It was fun, we signed some new guys and a lot of guys were around this summer,” Cook said. “Just getting the opportunity to get out here with guys and show them around here in Oklahoma, it was a great opportunity for me. It’s always about togetherness on this team. That’s was the most important thing going into this summer.”
Part of the challenge for the Thunder this season will be to continue on the path it has traveled down over the past few years. Consistency in the processes by which the team operates can pay major dividends year over year, and Cook believes that if he and his teammates stick with the program, they’ll be able to continue their trajectory of improvement and development.
“At the end of the day, we know how much progress we made this year and what we’re looking forward to as a team,” Cook said. “It’s important for us to continue to get better. Don’t change much, just continue to get better as a team and grow each and every day as we get ready for training camp tomorrow.”
1:35 p.m. | Reggie Jackson
When the media checked in with Jackson in June during exit interviews, the young point guard was visibly disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to be around all of his teammates during the summer. Now that the whole roster is back together and hitting the practice floor together, Jackson couldn’t be happier.
“It’s great, it’s good to see all the faces,” Jackson said. “Now that we’re back and everybody is kind of settled in, it’s better. Everybody is working out, you get to see the same guys and develop a routine. I’m just getting ready to kick off training camp and getting ready for practice.”
In a hectic rookie season, it was helpful for Jackson to pick Eric Maynor’s brain during games, while also getting to practice with Russell Westbrook. Jackson and Maynor talked through every play while sitting together on the bench during games, and the second-year point guard even had a “homework” notebook to carry around in the playoffs last season, helping his development. Looking to this season, Jackson thinks that going against two different styles of point guards in Westbrook and Maynor each day in practice will be beneficial to his own development as a defender.
“It’s great to play against one of the elite point guards in the league every day and then possibly the best backup in the league,” Jackson said. “You learn how to play against guys who play at a little slower tempo , who find tricks to beat you, then a guy who is just always in attack mode with no plays off guarding Russell. It’s really going to help on the defensive end, and also watching them and learning from them.”
1:45 p.m. | Kevin Durant
With his standard mix of confidence and humility, Durant snagged the microphone at the press conference table and opened up about his summer, his goals for this season and where he wants to improve. Heading into his sixth season in the NBA, Durant seems himself as a leader for the Thunder, both verbally and with his actions.
“Each year I’ve grown in that area, just being more of a vocal leader and leading by example,” Durant said. “I just have to bring it every single day as far as trying to help my team… I think if I’m always positive and energetic and wanting to win so bad, they’ll follow.”
Durant has always been one to never get too high or too low when it comes to his approach to his daily work. Heading into the 2012-13 season, it is clear to the reigning three-time NBA scoring champion that he must help his squad maintain the same attitude it always has in terms of not looking behind them or too far down the road. Taking care of what they can control on a daily basis will be the key for the Thunder, according to Durant.
“We just have to take it a day at a time,” Durant said. “That’s the approach we’ll bring to this group, to take it one day at a time, enjoy this process. We know it’s going to be a tough, long road full of ups and downs.”
1:55 p.m. | Russell Westbrook
Continuity is a key aspect of the Thunder culture, and Westbrook is a crucial member of the core that has been intact in Oklahoma City for the past few years. Over the course of multiple seasons, teammates have the opportunity to learn the more subtle aspects of one another’s games and help each other improve at a cooperative level. Westbrook feels fortunate that the Thunder returns 12 players from last year’s squad and can rely on teammates that he is familiar with.
“It helps us a lot,” Westbrook said. “A lot of different teams make a lot of changes around the league. I think we have something special here- a group of guys that have been together for a while and understand each other.”
It’s obvious that Westbrook appreciates more about the Thunder than just what happens on the court. When asked about the Thunder recently being rated by ESPN the Magazine as the top franchise in American professional sports, the bouncy, electric fifth-year guard explained all the reasons why he feels that ranking is justified.
“For one I think the fans have a huge part to do with it,” Westbrook said. “I think (General Manager) Sam(Presti) and (Owner) Clay (Bennett) have done a great job of creating a group of guys and an organization that does great things for us, for themselves, for the community. It just makes us a good program and organization to be a part of.”
2:05 p.m. | Kendrick Perkins
Perkins sauntered into the press conference room sporting a well-trimmed goatee and his usual brand of intensity. When asked to reflect on last season’s run, Perkins pushed the conversation forward to discuss how the Thunder can use its experience to keep growing this year. For a still developing team like the Thunder, it was a positive sign for Perkins to see the team improve its cohesion on the defensive end, ball movement on offense and mental approach to the game.
“I think a lot of guys on our team grew up last year in a lot of ways,” Perkins said. “We proved to ourselves and proved to the world that we can take our game to another level. We just have to continue working and staying hungry.”
The 27-year old center is often the Thunder’s great basketball philosopher, using his wealth of experience and NBA knowledge from playing on the NBA Champion Boston Celtics team in 2008 to help his teammates understand the important parts of NBA life. Perkins told his teammates that he and any player should prefer to win as a team than garner personal accolades, and relayed to the media that because of the unselfishness of the Thunder roster, he believes the team has the quality of people to be successful.
“I think the first thing is chemistry,” Perkins said. “That’s the good thing about our team, we’re not selfish and guys give up themselves even though guys would love to have 20-point games every night, it’s just buying into the system and doing your role and doing what we need to do to take it to the next level. At the end of the day, when you win as a team everybody gets a piece of the pie and you don’t have anything to worry about on an individual note. That’s the great thing about it.”
Click here for Part II of our Media Day rundown and again Tuesday afternoon for a recap of the Thunder’s first practice session of the 2012-13 season.