Young Thunder Players Working Hard

The landscape and conditions within the NBA, are ever-changing, with new obstacles and opportunities presenting themselves each year. As a result, the Thunder prides itself on being constantly vigilant in finding ways to improve, stay sharp and anticipate challenges ahead of time.

What the organization, with General Manager Sam Presti at the helm, wants to control is the consistency with which it handles each new challenge and every piece of adversity on its continued journey. For the Thunder, building continuity, sustaining success over time and developing young players to seamlessly integrate them into the core of the team is a way in which the team can avoid large emotional swings. By working hard every day at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, Thunder players have and will continue to improve themselves for the greater good of the organization.

“The thing that has really been our engine for our improvement on a year to year basis has been the internal development of our players and that is accredited to our coaching staff,” Presti said.

“Everybody has things they want to work on year after year, and that’s one of the benefits of having a group of guys that we feel like are driven internally to try to get better.”

That attitude of internal improvement has been set by those who created the standards for work ethic since the team arrived in Oklahoma City – Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That duo, along with veterans like Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins have created a positive, mature and professional environment, which has helped young players feel comfortable.

As a result, players like Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson have been able to advance and find success within the framework of the team and under the tutelage of Head Coach Scott Brooks. The key for the Thunder will be to continue that process with its younger generation of players and incorporate them into the rotation or keep them ready in case their number is called.

“Our young guys, they haven’t played a lot but they worked their tails off all season long,” Brooks said. “We expect to have another great summer of development and those guys are a big part of our future. Sam has done a great job of putting the roster together and he is going to continue to do that. I think our staff and our group of guys are going to continue to work hard and develop our team and find ways to continue to improve.”

The players Brooks is referencing are Hasheem Thabeet, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, DeAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton and perhaps others who played for the Tulsa 66ers this past year. Depending how the Thunder chooses to use their three draft picks that fall in the top 32 of the June 27th NBA Draft, there may be other young players in the mix for near future as well.

Jackson has seen first-hand the process that goes into player development within the Thunder organization considering he spent time with the 66ers, as the third string point guard, backup point guard and starting point guard all within the span of nine months for the Thunder. Looking at his own path, Jackson recognizes the importance of bringing everyone on the roster along smoothly so they can contribute in some way.

“Everybody has to get better,” Jackson said. “Those guys are going to be a big part of what we do. We have to bring everybody along. Just want to be the best team from guy one through 15. That’s kind of how we get things done here.”

So far this summer, the next wave of potential impact players for the Thunder have been working hard at the practice facility with one another. With the assistance of coaches and staffers in the building, players like Jones have been working on their strength, conditioning and individual skill sets over the past few weeks since the season ended.

“(We’re working on) everything,” Jones responded. “It’s been hard. You’ll be in the weight room for an hour or an hour and a half and then be on the court for an hour with each other, just running through things to get chemistry going. It’s been more of a learning experience.”

“It’s going well,” Lamb said last week. “We just recently started summer training. There are a lot of us working hard… I got some good rest and it felt good to get back on the court this week and start getting better.”

Team-oriented, high-character players who see collective hard work as the key to overall success are those the Thunder identifies as people who can fit within the Thunder’s culture. By having a roster full of those players, there is an inherent shared and united strength that develops in the locker room.

As every NBA team learns, it is what is done in preparation before adversity strikes that can determine whether a team succeeds from year to year and decade to decade. By laying the foundation of player development and a continual dedication to improvement now, the Thunder can begin to form an identity that future generations of players will stick to and execute in their own time.

“We expect those players on our roster to continue to grow and evolve, and that’s reason why we’ve chosen to take the path of building a team in this way and having it constituted,” Presti explained. “Because we feel like by staying true to that process we’ll continue to grow and be able to absorb some things along the way.”