Fisher, Brewer Settling in Nicely with Thunder
There is a certain verve that can be felt and heard during the course of a Thunder practice – sneakers squeaking on the court, coaches shouting instruction and players pumping each other up.
Practices under Head Coach Scott Brooks take on a unique personality, one that makes players want to practice, improve and develop. On Tuesday, the Thunder had a chance to hit the practice floor again at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center in advance of its game tomorrow night against the New Orleans Hornets at Chesapeake Energy Arena. It was a great chance to work on the team’s fundamentals and formally start the process of integrating newcomers Ronnie Brewer and Derek Fisher into the fold.
“I thought the practice was good, the energy was great,” Brooks said. “Paying attention to detail was at a premium. I thought everyone did a good job. Derek, Ronnie, the two new guys and everybody. It was good. You could see the excitement the team had just to have a practice.”
It might be better to call Fisher’s assimilation to the roster more of a re-introduction considering the 17-year pro joined the team mid-way through the season last year as well, helping the team win the Western Conference Finals. The point guard, whose role is not set in stone will undoubtedly provide a veteran presence and help the Thunder by utilizing the vast reserves of experience he has as a five-time NBA Champion.
That process started with today, though, when he jumped back onto an NBA practice floor for the first time since mid-December when he was with the Dallas Mavericks.
“Being back on the practice floor was just great,” Fisher said. “No matter how hard you work and how hard you push yourself, it’s just different when you’re going up against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and a lot of the great players we have on this team.”
Fisher knew what to expect when he came back to the organization – a group of players collectively invested in team-wide sacrifice with winning as the only mindset, a coaching staff to guide the team through each upcoming challenge and a support staff to help the players perform to the best of their abilities. In a way, he felt like he never left the organization because of how closely he’s kept in touch with people throughout the organization.
“From a personal standpoint, Russell, Kevin, Kendrick (Perkins), Nick Collison, these are guys that I’ve stayed in touch with over the last several months just on a personal level,” Fisher said. “They feel like I’ve always been here in a sense. It’s just great to be back as a part of this group and this community. I’m just looking forward to being as helpful as I possibly can be.”
While it’s been less than 48 hours since the Thunder signed Fisher, it’s only been a few days longer since the team acquired Brewer from the New York Knicks. Since that time, the veteran forward has been acquainted with those aspects of the organization that were attractive to Fisher for the very first time. Brewer has come away impressed thus far about what being a part of the Thunder means on and off the court.
“It’s a great group of guys,” Brewer said. “They have a one of a kind staff. All the players have welcomed me like I’ve been on the team since day one. I’m very excited to be a member of this team and very anxious and excited to join this team. Being around Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and seeing how hard they prepare and work, it makes you only want to elevate your work ethic and your game.”
It’s clear that Brewer has already started to develop a relationship with many of the players in the Thunder locker room, as he was seen chatting and joking with Durant and Westbrook long after practice was over on Tuesday. The way the Thunder welcomes newcomers into the fold is quite special, and it’s thanks to leaders like Durant and Westbrook that transitions for new players are often extremely smooth.
On the floor, Brewer hopes to seamlessly slide into what the Thunder is doing as well. He possesses many of the attributes desired by the Thunder – length, quickness, athleticism and size for his position. As a physical, instinctual and hustle-driven perimeter player, Brooks and the coaching staff envision that Brewer can make an impact by making winning basketball plays when he enters the game.
“I like what he brings,” Brooks said of Brewer. “He hustles, plays the game hard. He’s an aggressive player. We’re looking for him to just come in whenever he gets an opportunity to go in there and just play hard, get some extra possessions and get some stops on the defensive end.”
With players like Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin on the floor, the Thunder knows where it will get a majority of its offense. It’s the defensive end of the floor where the team is most focused as it heads into the stretch run of the season and tries to make another playoff push. Fortunately, Brewer said that area is where he is most valuable.
“Give you the hustle plays on defense,” Brewer said, when asked to describe what he’ll do with any minutes he gets. “Whether that’s diving on the floor, trying to get a loose basketball, playing the passing lane and getting steals. On offense be very active, cutting to the basket, trying to find teammates and trying to make the simple plays to make the team better.”
By adding Fisher whose steadiness and mental toughness will be of major help and Brewer, whose physical, defensive mindset will shine, the Thunder is able to use the coming weeks of the season to incorporate two significant pieces into the puzzle.