Utilizing the Summer to Prepare for Training Camp

Wins in the NBA are the result of an accumulation of small moments, extra efforts and performance at the margins.

Heading into training camp, the Thunder believes that its players, coaching staff, training staff and the organization as a whole have capitalized on its offseason opportunities to develop and grow. By returning 12 of 15 players from the 2011-12 squad, the Thunder and General Manager Sam Presti believe that the requisite continuity is in place for the team to have made collective, team-focused strides in the offseason that will pay dividends during the season.

“I think there are all kinds of opportunities over the summertime to improve, and again I give a lot of credit to our coaching staff and our players for putting in that extra time that they have over the years,” Presti said. “It’s been a big part of our development as a team. I think spending time with them in the offseason, being specific with the things they want them to improve on.”

Between the end of the NBA Playoffs in late June and the beginning of training camp on Monday, the team could not have true, organized practices, but every player, coach and staffer is charged with the responsibility to work on their craft during the offseason. Whether it was players coming into the Integris Health Thunder Development Center voluntarily to practice or the coaching staff self-scouting, the faces of the organization spent time honing their skills.

Behind the scenes, it was up to the personnel staff to do research on collegiate and international players and the training staff finding new methods to help put the players’ bodies in peak physical shape. Throughout the organization, it is imperative to uncover ways to impact winning.

“A lot of it comes down to the people we have in place and who is directing those efforts from our medical and our athletic performance and our coaching because we really consider all of those people integral to our approach,” Presti said.

From the sound of it, at least from Presti’s eyes, the Thunder has done an effective job of sticking to its processes this offseason in terms of on court improvement. Having four players compete in the Olympics, four players compete in Summer League and four others travel to Africa to participate in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders outreach program, the Thunder had a beneficial summer, not only basketball-wise, but, as Presti said, “holistically”.

“I think across the board we’ve had guys that we, of course, expect to improve from a developmental standpoint and work with them on those things, from a basketball standpoint,” Presti said. “I also think we’ve had some good overall growth with things as well.”

A summer of hard work, along with a normal training camp schedule gives the young Thunder roster the chance to gel together and fully prepare itself for each and every game. This season, young players like Reggie Jackson and Cole Aldrich will get a chance to grow because of the regular allotment of training camp days, preseason games and practices that they were not afforded last season. With more time allotted for the coaching and training staff to spend with the players, the higher the chances of improvement.

“The other thing is we go back to 82 games, and there’s also going to be more time within the season,” Presti said. “So you’re not only just picking up the month of camp but you’re also picking up those extra days within the season, that I feel like Scott makes tremendous use of. He does an excellent job with the team in practice and in preparatory ways. So hopefully we can find a way to maximize those for us.”

Summer Down Time

All the talk of hard work in the offseason means that the Thunder will be well-prepared for the preseason. It was also imperative for players, coaches and the basketball operations staff alike to decompress this summer after the grueling, condensed 66-game schedule that also featured a two-month Playoff run.

While some players went back to their hometowns and others took brief vacations, Presti utilized two relaxing hobbies to enjoy some of his down time – watching music documentaries and reading through a World War II pamphlet written by his grandfather, which was a gift from his grandmother. Whether it was Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” or Steely Dan’s “Aja”, Presti, an avid musician himself, was intrigued by seeing these albums in the midst of their creation, and what the performers and producers were thinking at the time.

“I just think the creative process is really fascinating and to see people working through that and a lot of times how spontaneous some of the things are, they become these historical songs or artistic creations,” Presti said. “Somebody is sitting in the studio and just decides at the last minute, what if we put this on there? And it becomes this piece that ties it all together. I think it’s fascinating.”

As for the pamphlet, it is a special family heirloom that documents many of the people Presti’s grandfather met and experiences that he had while fixing bridges during World War II.

“It’s probably the greatest thing that anyone has ever given me, quite honestly,” Presti said. “I’m scared to flip through it too many times because it might fall apart. It’s on its way to the safety deposit box, but hopefully I can give that to my kids one day.”