Thunder Jumps Right Back Into the Mix

The design and scheme of the practice jerseys may be different, but the processes and drills in Thunder training camp are consistent as ever.

On Tuesday the Thunder opened up the 2012-13 season with its first practice of training camp, utilizing a two-and-a-half hour session to work through many facets of their offensive and defensive strategy. The Thunder’s fresh, sharp-looking practice jerseys were new, but the cadence of a typical Thunder practice – shouts of instruction, squeaking of sneakers and claps of encouragement – were all familiar sounds today. Because of the continuity on the roster – the Thunder returns 12 players from last year’s team – a large majority of Head Coach Scott Brooks’ players know exactly what to expect when it comes to a practice at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center.

“I thought our guys did a really good job of competing and really carrying over what we know as a unit,” Brooks said. “The Thunder knowledge, as I like to say on all of our coverages and our offensive sets. They picked up pretty quickly… We had a pretty good practice today, a good pace.”

For the longest-tenured member of the Thunder organization, Nick Collison, being able to step onto the practice floor after a few months away yet still finding a rhythm in practice is a treat. Because team leaders like Collison, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been a part of setting the internal standards for practice on a daily basis for the last few years, it’s simple for those in the program to fall in line quickly.

“It’s an advantage for us to be able to come in and not have to go over single thing in every drill,” Collison said. “We jump right in. We do have some new guys, but they’re able to pick things up pretty quickly.”

As a result of being able to jump right into their normal practice drills without confusion or explanation, it allows the Thunder to be more efficient with their time. While some teams my use the allotment of six two-a-day practices in order to teach their players all the necessary material, the Thunder can avoid those, long, leg-killing two-a-day sessions because the core of the team is already in tune with the program.

Not only are the players and coaches on the same page from the get-go here in training camp, but players at Media Day told thunder.nba.com that it is an organizational standard that players work hard to get better in the offseason. In fact, many of the players worked out regularly at the training facility throughout September. This means that instead of coming into training camp rusty or needing to play catch-up, the Thunder players are in tip-top physical shape and already in a regular workout routine.

“You can tell they’ve spent a lot of time in the gym and in the weight room working on their bodies and working on their games in the gym,” Brooks said. “They came back in great shape. That always has been the case here.”

With the foundation for how practices will be run already set in stone, its comfortable for players like Eric Maynor, who is coming off last year’s season-ending knee injury, to seamlessly work back into the operation with his teammates. Most of all, however, the continuity the Thunder has on its roster allows for an enjoyable, high energy practices because the teammates genuinely care about one another. The “brotherhood” that James Harden spoke of during Media Day is something that Durant and his teammates take seriously, making the first full official day back at the facility a special one.

“It was good to get back out there with the guys and the coaches,” Durant said. “It’s Day 1. We have to keep pushing… It feels good to be back in here with them and working to try to have a good season. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and just getting better.”