Speed it Up

So much of the Thunder’s attitude heading into the season and over the first few days of U.S. Cellular Training Camp has been that the tempo and speed of play is a crucial component of what the team is ultimately trying to be about once the season begins. The caveat has always been that it’s not necessarily just about physical quickness, but playing with speed mentally as well.

Thus far, Head Coach Billy Donovan has been finding ways to get those principles integrated into the Thunder’s two-a-day practices at the Thunder ION, powered by OU Medicine. The focus has been on getting the ball in-bounds quickly, pushing the ball into the front court after just a few seconds on the shot clock and making reads and cuts promptly and precisely.

“They’re picking up on the things that we’re looking to do,” Donovan said. “We had a chance to talk about trying to play with a better pace and tempo, playing faster, in the offseason, so I think they expect that coming in here.”

“It’s been good. It’s been natural,” forward Paul George added.  “It plays into our play style to play that way. I think it’s a natural adjustment for us.”

Donovan knew that in order to get this style of play ingrained into the players from the get-go, it would have to be installed into five-on-five work from the very outset of camp. So while there has certainly been drill work the past few days, the team has been encouraged by the opportunities to get out there in live settings and compete with their speed-based approach. Even without Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson in action, there are still 18 players in camp that Donovan has been rotating through, making sure that newcomers and Thunder veterans alike are getting acclimated to one another.

“I want these guys to be able to play with the new faces, with some different guys getting acclimated with each other,” Donovan said. “We mix it up. You’re pulling guys in and out and getting different subs and stuff. So, we’ll play different groups of guys together, different lineups.”

Watch: Training Camp - Day 3

News & Notes

-       One example of players meshing with one another came in the form of a leadership display by Paul George. During one drill focused on cutting and screening, rookie Hamidou Diallo was having a hard time defending George (no small task, obviously). George took the time after the drill to pull Diallo aside and walk him through some technique and to give him some advice.

  • “I take pride in being here and in this uniform,” George said. “In this league, it’s a circle of life. I was helped the same way in my rookie year. I got advice. Guys took me under their wing. That’s all it is, giving back to the young guys.”

-       Speaking of Diallo, George and the Thunder have been impressed by his athleticism, leaping ability and overall tools. After spending two years but just one true season at the Universwity of Kentucky and averaging 10.0 points per game, Diallo showed out in Las Vegas at Summer League by putting up 10.8 points on 49 percent shooting to go with 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals in just 19.2 minutes of play.

  • “Hami has huge upside, big talent. He’s just gotta get all of it together and learn how to play at this level. He has that star power. He has that talent in him,” George gushed. “You rarely see guys being able to jump in so many ways. Hami is a guy who can jump off one leg, either leg, both legs. So, he’s gifted in that field.”

-       Another player who has presented himself as a leader for young players and newcomers during the early stages of camp has been Steven Adams. While in down times and in front of the camera Adams lets loose and shows off his affable Kiwi spirit, on the court in practice he’s a focused and attentive teammate. With Westbrook off the floor and Nick Collison retired, young veterans like Adams who have helped establish the Thunder’s culture are essential to team and chemistry building.

  • You want those guys to enjoy themselves, coming to work every day. But when we are on the court and we are working, there’s really not a lot of that,” Donovan said of his center. “(Adams) is very, very focused, (has) attention to detail, concentration and asks questions. (He) tries to talk to guys, to help guys. If something happens, a breakdown, he always tries to figure out a way to fix it.”