Thunder Media Day Run-Down, Part II
Yesterday at the Thunder Events Center, Thunder players and coaches got their pictures taken, gave interviews to media outlets and sat down with the local media for a press conference.
This morning marks the first Thunder practice of the 2012-13 season, so yesterday was a great opportunity for the players and Head Coach Scott Brooks to set the tone for the 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. If you missed Part I of the Media Day recap, you can find it here. Below is Part II:
2:15 p.m. | Nick Collison
The longest-tenured member of the organization displayed his typical quiet, analytical style when answering questions on Monday. A Mid-Westerner and basketball junkie, Collison always tries to remind the team to get back to its fundamentals and to play its specific basketball philosophy on both the offensive and defensive ends. One major factor that Collison believes makes it easier for the Thunder to do that is being able to go to work with the same people year after year.
“I think we’re fortunate to have continuity so it feels like we’re just getting right back into it,” Collison said. “This year and the last couple years it’s been nice to just jump right in with a lot of the same guys and just kind of get back into it. It’s a big advantage for us to have that continuity.”
During the course of a season there is always going to be slippage in the quality of basketball NBA teams display, but Collison hopes that his teammates can see the big picture in those moments. Instead of simply looking at the scoreboard to decide whether or not they were successful on a given night, it is important to Collison for himself and his teammates to look at how they are playing as opposed to the result. It’s possible in the NBA to win a game while playing the wrong way and lose a game while playing the right way, but the more often the Thunder plays the right way, the better chance they have to be victorious.
“Our level of play, throughout the year, our focus on our consistency and how we’re actually playing as opposed to just looking at if we’re winning games or not needs to be important to us,” Collison said “We’ve had a great run here and we have great players, we just have to be able to play together better.”
2:25 p.m. | Daniel Orton
The Oklahoma City native and Bishop McGuinness standout makes his return home by being invited to training camp with the Thunder. The former member of the Orlando Magic and Kentucky Wildcat seemed genuinely excited about being able to learn from the Thunder veterans and coaching staff, remarking at length about the high quality experience he’s had with the team thus far.
“It’s a true blessing to come into this situation,” Orton said. “To come into an organization like this, there’s just no other. Talking to other players, just chatting it up with them, you understand how special this place is as far as the way they handle things, the way that they approach pretty much everything. It’s the care that they take, the time they put into everything they do.”
2:30 p.m. | James Harden
Heading into his fourth NBA season, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year is coming off a busy summer where he got a chance to win a Gold Medal with Team USA and play every day with some of the best players in the world. Two of his teammates on the Olympic squad just so happened to be Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, making the experience even more incredible. Now that he’s returned to Oklahoma City for training camp, Harden said it is important that he and his teammates are familiar with one another and understand their jobs on the squad.
“We know what to expect from each other,” Harden said. “We know our roles on this team, especially the core. We know what Kevin (Durant) is going to do, we know what Russell (Westbrook) is going to do. I come off the bench. Serge (Ibaka), (Kendrick) Perkins, we know what each other are going to do, so it makes that an easier transition to come into a new season. Now we can focus on the few new pieces that we have and things that we can control and things we can get better at from last year.”
Throughout the afternoon on Media Day, the Thunder players and staff caught up with one another, joked around together and made it clear that not only are they a cohesive unit on the floor, but off it as well. General Manager Sam Presti has made it a point to bring in a group of high-character players who will mesh well with one another, and on Monday Harden confirmed that the ties that bind the Thunder players are extremely strong.
“I think we’ve built a brotherhood here, a brotherhood for these past years that is hard to break,” Harden said. “Other teams are just teammates, but we’re really brothers. We hang out all the time. We push each other to work hard every single day. The fans, the whole organization, I think we’re on the same page and that’s wanting to be great.”
2:40 p.m. | Eric Maynor
Coming off of a season-ending knee injury is no easy task, but Eric Maynor was with the Thunder every step of the way last season after his January injury, making it easy for him to feel like he’s never left. Whether it was coaching Reggie Jackson through different scenarios while they were on the bench during the NBA Playoffs or working out with Daequan Cook this summer, Maynor has been the consummate teammate over the past nine months, trying to help his teammates wherever possible.
“It’s important because if you see something, you try to tell your teammate and you try to make them see it also and just try to help the next guy,” Maynor said.
Now cleared to practice fully, Maynor is very excited to get training camp going. The fourth year guard from VCU enjoys the way the Thunder runs training camp and the familiarity the players and staff have with one another. The processes for the Thunder during camp stay consistent from year to year, making it easy for players to seamlessly transition into season-mode.
“I think for the last couple years it’s been easy for us to just start training camp different than other teams,” Maynor said. “We start training camp out with the same people and everything goes by smoothly. We get some good work in.”
2:45 p.m. | Walker Russell
Describing himself as an “old school point guard”, Russell is a veteran who has played in three foreign countries in addition to playing for the Detroit Pistons last season. As a training camp invitee, Russell hopes to make an impression on the coaching staff and show that his experience could be beneficial. So far the 29-year old has been impressed by the Thunder organization, and even related his last experience playing in Chesapeake Energy Arena, when he was with the Pistons last season.
“It’s everything I thought and heard it was,” Russell said. “I remember coming here last year playing for the Pistons and coming here on a Monday night and it being sold out. Just the whole atmosphere (was great). They kicked our butts in the first 15 minutes and got the show on the road and we went on our merry way. One of the best facilities (in the league). The whole organization is very professional and I appreciate it.”
2:50 p.m. | Serge Ibaka
Many of the players on Monday discussed how proud they were of their teammates for taking strides forward last season in terms of how the Thunder played. It wasn’t necessarily an attitude based on the win-loss results, but the fact that the team played cohesively and improved its ball movement and communication on defense. Ibaka, the fourth-year Congolese forward who recently signed a contract extension is hopeful that he and his teammates can work hard this year and take those facets of the game to the next level.
“We’ll learn from last year and now we know how to do it,” Ibaka said. “(We know) what it takes to be there and the good thing about us is that we always work hard to get better.”
During the summer Ibaka played for the Spanish national team in the Olympics, and got to show off a few new wrinkles to his game that he’ll try to develop moving forward. As one of the hardest workers in the league and someone who takes his training very seriously, Ibaka wants to use this training camp to improve all aspects of his game.
“Every year I just try to get better and better,” Ibaka said. “I know I still have a lot to learn offensively and defensively. I’ll just keep working and learning and see where my hard work will take me.”
3:00 p.m. | Andy Rautins
Rautins is a sharp-shooter from Syracuse University who has played for both the New York Knicks and CB Lucentum Alicante in Spain over the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4 guard was with the team during Summer League in Orlando this year, watching closely and learning from the coaching staff along the way. Over the last few weeks, Rautins has been able to get a sense of what the Thunder organization is like, and understands the way the team is run.
“It’s a really close knit organization,” Rautins said. “Top to bottom everything is run extremely well. Everybody is in sync and there’s a lot of synergy. Guys get along like family.”
3:05 p.m. | Lazar Hayward
As an important practice player and a tough-minded defender who pushes his teammates, Hayward sees the value of bringing positive energy to the locker room. While his efforts are truly appreciated during the season, they were also helpful in Orlando during Summer League, when he took on a leadership role with the squad.
“I’ve always been a leader by nature,” Hayward said. “I was a really good vocal leader in college at Marquette as well. I was one of the older guys on that team. It was pretty much my job to be that guy because it’s what we needed. I’ve always been that type of person, that type of teammate. It should definitely transition very smoothly over to training camp.”
Heading into this season, Hayward believes his value will come in being somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades. He said that when he works out in the summer and trains to develop his game, he works on all aspects as opposed to singling out one area in particular in the hopes of becoming well-rounded. In order to again make an impact, Hayward wants to step up his game on a number of levels.
“I think I just need to continue to get better and continue to work on all facets of my game,” Hayward said. “Just like I’ve been doing since I can remember playing basketball.”
3:10 p.m. | Hasheem Thabeet
Thabeet is the first Tanzanian player to ever make it to the NBA, and the 7-foot-3 center is looking for the opportunity to compete with the physical big men already on the roster. After stints with the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, Thabeet is looking forward to getting the chance to work with the Thunder’s player development staff.
“I’m excited, this is a great opportunity,” Thabeet said. “It’s almost like a fresh start for me. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and I’m willing to pay the price. It’s a great opportunity. I just have to come out and capitalize on it.”
One of the things that has impressed Thabeet thus far is how helpful the Thunder’s coaching and training staff has been. He said that he can go to the Integris Health Thunder Development Center late at night and there is always someone there to help him through his workouts. In addition, Thabeet said that his new teammates have been really helpful in his introduction process.
“It’s been great,” Thabeet said. “We’re a bunch of young guys, we joke around, but when it comes to work, we go to work. We believe in each other.”
3:15 p.m. | Perry Jones
With the 28th selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Thunder chose Perry Jones from Baylor University, and thus far the long, rangy forward has been working hard to prepare himself for training camp. Something that has helped Jones in his progression has been the way Thunder veterans like Kevin Durant have reached out to him since the draft to help him along. Jones has now had a chance to get to know some of the other players on the roster, and feels right at home.
“Everybody is family,” Jones said. “Everybody takes everybody under their wing. After a workout, after practice, everybody goes to the same house. Everybody hangs out together. It’s really a close-knit family here.”
After two well-rounded and productive years at Baylor, Jones comes into the Thunder program with a versatile skill set and a personality that can mesh easily with other teammates. Jones displayed his mid-range shooting and rebounding ability at Baylor and in a few games at the Orlando Summer League, but he hopes to use training camp to improve on the defensive end- a staple of the Thunder’s basketball philosophy.
“Defense, definitely working with Kevin, guarding Kevin that’s a hard thing to do,” Jones said. “It’s definitely helping me a lot and it’s helping me get more of an understanding of how to guard in the NBA.”
3:25 p.m. | DeAndre Liggins
As the day started to come to a close, Liggins stepped into the press conference room and he lit up the room with his sense of humor. The defensive-minded forward is also a former member of the Orlando Magic and the University of Kentucky like Daniel Orton, so the forward joked that every time he turns around, he sees Orton. On a more serious note, Liggins has been extremely impressed with his experience in Oklahoma City thus far, saying he loves the way the Thunder operates.
“First class,” Liggins said. “First class means that everybody gets treated the same way, no matter if you’re DeAndre Liggins, Russell (Westbrook) or Kevin Durant. Everybody gets treated the same way. Everybody is accountable, and that’s what I like about the organization.”
3:35 p.m. | Hollis Thompson
The Thunder staff was beginning to shut down the variety of sets at the Thunder Events Center when another training camp invitee, Hollis Thompson, came into the interview room. The former Georgetown standout and knock-down three-point shooter has been very active in the community thus far during his time in Oklahoma City, spending quite a bit of time with his Thunder teammates. He’s had a great time working with some of the other young guys on the roster and getting adjusted to the area.
“It’s a great group of people,” Thompson said. “So far so good. I’m still learning my way around, still meeting people but so far my experience has been nothing less than amazing, so I’ve enjoyed it.”
Thompson’s media session ended the day on Monday, and after two-and-a-half hours of photos, interviews and on-camera appearances, it was a productive day. Look for more training camp content at thunder.nba.com this month, starting this afternoon after practice.