Day 1: Thunder Opens Training Camp by Tapping Into its History
There was a different air in the building on the first day of the Thunder’s Training Camp. In addition to the typical excitement that comes with the anticipation of the season, there was something different about this start to preseason. That’s because rather than setting up shop in the traditional environment of the Thunder ION practice facility, the team and coaching staff opened the slate of preseason practices inside of the Thunder Blue ION which was the original practice facility for the Thunder from its inaugural season through 2011.
The building, which was once an old roller-skating rink, hosted years of intense Thunder practices, tough workouts and memorable events that helped create the established history and legacy of the organization. Since then, it has been the practice facility of the Thunder’s G-League affiliate OKC Blue, the site of press conferences youth basketball camps and a Thunder Blue and White Scrimmage, but still carries the palpable nostalgia of its history from the moment you walk through its doors.
As the Thunder embarks on a new season and sets out to establish its identity, there seemed to be no better way to move forward than by acknowledging the history of its past and gleaning the lessons that came with it.
“We have a blank canvas, everything is unwritten. We have an unbelievable responsibility and opportunity with that,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “In order to do that well, I think it's important to understand your history and your past before you really plow into the future and tackle the present.”
Daigneault is no stranger to the practice facility. As the former head coach of the Oklahoma City Blue, he spent five seasons working inside of its walls. Players such as guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, however, hadn’t spent much time inside of the building prior to this season’s training camp. Even still, the Thunder’s star point guard could sense the gravity within the building throughout the first day of practice.
“It was cool. Obviously, a lot has started and happened in this in this facility. There's a certain air in this building. That's not like others, and it was cool to see,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Oklahoma City is hard-working. Hard-working city, hard-working program and we build things from the ground up. This is where it all started, so it was cool to start our season back here.”
There’s a certain air in this building... We build things from the ground up. This is where it all started, so it was cool to start our season back here.— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) September 28, 2021
Today's media session with @shaiglalex pic.twitter.com/51PDOUee10
As with any start to the season, day one is about establishing a foundation and the long-standing principles of the organization. Leaning into the spirit of its hard-working ethos, the Thunder kicked off Training Camp with a two-and-a-half-hour practice which included getting up and down the floor in five-on-five scrimmages on the same court that held some of the Thunder’s most spirited practices.
Following the final buzzer, players stepped right off the court and into the weight room that conveniently sits on the other side of the half wall that used to separate the roller rink from the sidelines. The group then closed out the day with a second on-court session later that evening.
“The number one way that we can as a team really connect to our fans and our community is to truly represent them. I think the way that we can most represent them and be most relatable, with our community is by rolling our sleeves up and getting to work. Not taking shortcuts, not asking for anything to be given and not having a privilege, but just to earn everything we get,” said Daigneault. “
“This is a place organizationally where that happened and we're just kind of soaking ourselves in it. We're not trying to recreate anything. We're trying to learn the lessons and carry them forward.”
With a full training camp ahead of the team leading into the season, the group looks to capitalize on the uninterrupted practice environment beyond just the schemes and style of play. Being emersed inside of the Blue ION allows the organization to also lay the foundation of the established character and mentality that comes with putting on a Thunder uniform –in order to build something great, it starts with putting in the work.
“This is a place where we really try to tap into our principles as an organization and really understand what the teams before us were built on learn that lesson,” said Daigneault. “And then when we reconnect at our building, take those lessons with us as we start to fill in the blanks on who we're going to be in the type of team we're going to become.”