USA Basketball Training Camps Helps Build Chemistry for Thunder Trio

NEW YORK – There were the 7 a.m. strength training sessions, the dinners out on the town, the impromptu shopping trips and, of course, the two weeks of actual basketball.

Over the course of two training camps in two cities with USA Basketball, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook spent as much time together, if not more, than they would during the NBA regular season. Such was the benefit of being among the 15 finalists chosen to compete for a roster spot on the Men’s National Team that will soon play for the nation’s first World Championship since 1994.

Of course, had the Thunder trio not been a part of the USA Basketball pipeline, chances are they’d still end up spending time with one another at some point during the offseason. They’re a likable bunch that gets along splendidly. Chemistry has never been an issue with this team, a team-wide trait that nearly every player willingly works toward honing.

But when three of the Thunder’s core players who are also the team's top scorers were able to spend time together in a controlled environment like USA Basketball, it was almost inevitable that the trio would become closer. Without their Thunder teammates, Durant, Green and Westbrook still spent time together at the team hotels, on the nearly dozens of team bus rides, in the locker rooms, huddles, team meetings and film sessions, and especially on the court.

There were moments where Durant, Green and Westbrook actually shared the floor together, like the first time the team opened a scrimmage to the media in Las Vegas, when the sight of three Thunder players on the same team, only in USA jerseys, stirred conversations from onlookers.

Most of the time, there were two Thunder players on the floor together and almost always one. The Men’s National Team scrimmaged amongst each other quite often, so there were countless opportunities for Durant, Green and Westbrook to learn more about each other as players, whether they were on the court together or watching from the bench.

“It makes it easier for each other to talk to one another and discuss when I had a good shot or he had a good shot or I had a bad shot,” Westbrook said. “That’s a good thing for us to do.”

Durant said these training camps allowed the Thunder contingent to strengthen their bond.

“Our chemistry has been unbelievable and it can only get better,” Durant said. “Being out here can only help.”

They were willing to take advantage of every opportunity together, which is why hours before the Men’s National team would meet for breakfast each morning, Durant, Green and Westbrook would meet Head Athletic Trainer Joe Sharpe at the team hotel gym for a workout.

“We still have to get better,” Green said. “Not only for USA Basketball but also for our season, so this has been about us competing and trying to get together.”

Even though Green wasn’t selected to travel with the team to Spain, Greece and Turkey, Durant said he would still keep him in the mix by reaching out to him regularly while overseas. And while Durant and Westbrook remain abroad, it will only provide more opportunities to strengthen their bond and take it into training camp come October.

Veteran guard Chauncey Billups can relate to the experience the Thunder trio has had this summer. When Billups was still with the Detroit Pistons, he spent the summer of 2008 playing for USA Basketball alongside teammate Tayshaun Prince. Billups did not compete with the team later that summer in the Beijing Olympics but Prince went on to win gold. Either way, Billups said the few extra weeks he had with Prince were invaluable heading into the Pistons’ training camp. Billups foresees the same with Durant, Green and Westbrook.

“It makes a difference,” Billups said last week. “Anytime you can play more with your team – you’re going to be in the foxhole with them every night – it just continues to get you more familiar and more familiar. I think it puts you on a plateau. It puts you in different situations not in the NBA because international play is totally different. It gives you a chance to bond in a different way.”

Contact Chris Silva