Thunder Assesses, Analyzes and Adjusts After Preseason Games

Continuity on the Thunder roster breeds trust and confidence. Routine and consistency from the coaching staff provides strength and support.

When Head Coach Scott Brooks and his coaching staff returned from Salt Lake City in the early hours of Saturday morning, they didn’t simply push the Thunder’s first two preseason games against the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz to the side. Over the past two days between Friday’s game against the Jazz and this morning’s practice, the coaching staff reviewed what went well and where the team could improve. By doing so, the coaches were fully prepared to meet with the players Monday morning to help them in a variety of aspects of the game during practice.

“You’re always watching film and trying to figure out what you did well and not so well,” Brooks said. “You try to make adjustments and improve. You have to think of the big picture, but you also have to think of the moment.”

The Thunder is a defense-first squad, meaning that the heavy focus of Monday’s practice came on that end of the floor, particularly regarding transition defense. With young centers Cole Aldrich and Hasheem Thabeet logging big minutes in the preseason, there were a few finer points of defensive coverages to review, while other players throughout the roster also received instruction and worked hard to correct mistakes and further learn team philosophies.

“We came back and went to work,” Thabeet said. “Guys went after it, everybody was going after it today… We can do a better job guarding pick-and-rolls so that’s what we worked a lot on today. We have to keep getting better on the little stuff that we didn’t do the past couple games.”

There was plenty to be pleased with during the first two preseason games as the coaching staff got to see Thabeet and rookie Perry Jones in their first action with the team. Defensive rebounding was a positive in the first half against the strong frontcourt of the Jazz, and the ball movement and sharing has been solid so far. Of course, according to Serge Ibaka, there are always opportunities for the Thunder to work on its craft.

“That’s what preseason games are for, to learn,” Ibaka said. “It’s normal in a preseason game, we can’t do everything right. That’s why we play the preseason games, then come back in practice and try to get better.”

Fortunately, with that attitude prevalent amongst all of the Thunder players, practices are lively. When coaches are dedicated to finding areas to help develop individual players and the team as a whole, it’s easy for dedicated players to commit to making enhancements to their games. With an entire roster devoted to getting better each day, it’s just a matter of applying the coaches’ direction to their daily habits.

“Our guys have always done a good job on the practice floor,” Brooks said. “It makes it enjoyable because you know the guys are going to give you great effort. The film and the things that we work on always carry over to the practice floor.”

The routine the Thunder utilizes with coaches assessing strengths and weaknesses, analyzing how those areas could improve then communicating with the players how to make the correct adjustments is an effective one. It’s particularly impactful starting in the preseason because that process closely reflects the one the team employs during the regular season, when games are much more frequent and practice time even more critical.

“You’re constantly looking for ways to get better, whether it’s at shoot-around, film after the game, at halftime, during timeouts,” Brooks said. “You always have moments to teach and improve our players. Our guys are great guys that work extremely hard, so we just find ways to utilize all of the things that we have here.”