Even Keel, Focus Critical During Road Stretch
Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club faces the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight on the second night of a road back-to-back, which also marks the beginning of a stretch of 15 out of 21 games on the road. Playing at the friendly confines of Chesapeake Energy Arena is a major benefit the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook-led Thunder has when at home, but its commitment to team ideals and to one another on the road is what strengthens it on the road.
“We’re a veteran team,” Durant said. “We know what it takes on the road. We know it’s not easy coming on the road and getting W’s. We have to stick together. I tell the guys every time before we run out on the floor on the road that it’s just us here in the arena. The 15 guys on the bench, the coaches and guys behind the bench. It’s just us, that’s all we have… We all have to stick together in every part of the game and I think we’ll be fine.”
That stick-together mentality is exactly the same as the one the Thunder employs when playing in Oklahoma City. Thanks to experiences built by the core of this team over the past four seasons, and the mature attitudes of newcomers like Kevin Martin the Thunder is prepared for its upcoming road challenge. While road trips can be mentally and physically taxing, it is important the team has its normal level of intensity and focus.
“I think we just need to play like we know how to play,” Martin said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re at home or on the road. We’re all experienced enough to do what we have to do to win. We just have to play like we’re at home.”
Watching team huddles, conversations on the court and moments between timeouts, it’s clear that the Thunder are a close-knit unit but one that is also locked in on trying to improve with every possession. That never-too-high, never-too-low attitude is imbued into the team by Brooks, who wants consistency and steadiness out of his team first and foremost, particularly on the road.
“I don’t think anything changes,” Brooks said. “We’ve always been a team that just focuses on today. That’s all we do. Whether we win or whether we lose, we focus on today. We’ve always been a team that has had a good approach whether we at home or on the road. It’s definitely a great opportunity.”
Brooks also disclosed that being on the road adds value because it is great bonding time for the team, coaches and basketball operations staff. When at home family, friends and wanting to spend time at home are all normal aspects of life, on the road the only thing the Thunder has to think about is itself as a unit. As a result, it’s a chance for coaches to spend quality time with players and to continue to develop those valuable relationships.
Above all, however, those road trips are simply opportunities to get better as a unit and to try to put one more number in the win column.
“We just want to win every game we play,” Brooks said. “We don’t even put a number on it, we just want to play well. I’ve talked to the guys for five years now. Every game is a big game. You cannot look and discount the game, because they’re all important. One of 82. We all have a job to do and we have to do it for 82 games.”