In front of a raucous crowd of YMCA youth basketball players, the Thunder displayed a first look at the new identity of its team during its annual Blue and White Scrimmage.
For a preseason scrimmage, the Thunder Blue and White game played out with no shortage of competitiveness. Complete with battles on the low post, jousting over ball screens and pin downs, along with a little bit of smack talk and even some friendly goaltending.
Leading the White Team was Chris Paul, Steven Adams and Danilo Gallinari while the Blue Team was led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo. The White Team maintained a steady lead the entire game with the Blue Team only able to bring their deficit down to five in the 3rd quarter. From the beginning, typical preseason lapses such as travelling calls, shot-clock violations, and unforced turnovers were present. However, what was lost in turnovers was made up for in pace of play. The team’s desire to play fast and up tempo was on full display during the scrimmage. On several occasions, Danilo Gallinari was the recipient of full court pitch out passes down the floor for uncontested layups. Run outs, getting the ball inbounds quickly and taking advantage in transition were all prevalent throughout the scrimmage, something that Thunder forward, Darius Bazley has been quickly adjusting to. “In the beginning it was a little tough because it was fast and really physical. But we play every day. That helps a lot just being able to get reps. Doing stuff like this has helped my transition be a lot easier,” said Bazley.
Today’s scrimmage also offered a first look at how the three point guards, Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schröder, could all be incorporated throughout game play. During training camp, Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander were able to get reps together, so Billy Donovan used today to allow Paul and Schröder the opportunity to play on the White Team together with Gilgeous-Alexander getting point guard reps on the Blue Team. Often times, it was Schroder bringing the ball up the floor with Paul playing off the ball and showing his versatility by scoring off of wing pin downs. As for Gilgeous-Alexander, he was electric for the Blue Team. Showing off his length and agility by getting past defenders and smoothly finishing at the rim. “He’s very uncanny,” said Donovan. “He’s got a great wingspan. He’s a great finisher. I think he’s deceptive when he gets to the lane, because of his length. He’s a got an unbelievable way where he just gets by people and he gets around people and he gets into the lane. And when he gets into the teeth of the defense with his size, generally good things happen.”
Outside of the primary ball-handlers, Steven Adams and Danilo Gallinari also showcased their versatile, expanded games. In the second half, Adams illustrated this by beating a defender at the top of the key, driving into the lane, drawing help defenders and dishing out a clean pass to Adbel Nader for a wide-open three in the corner. In several other instances throughout the game, Adams would put the ball on the floor and attack his defender outside of the lane oftentimes resulting in a foul.
As for Gallinari, not only was his sharp shooting put on display, but also his ability to run the floor and mix it up under the rim. Combining his ability to get out in transition with his size and strength to finish at the rim made him a dominant force in today’s scrimmage.
With eight new additions to the roster, today’s scrimmage was as much about testing out offensive and defensive tactics as it was allowing the players to learn each other’s tendencies which can only come with communication and time together on the floor. This is why the loudest voices in the gym didn’t come from the 150 YMCA kids, it rang from the players on the floor who were constantly chirping on both sides of the ball.
“That was one of our biggest focuses in training camp and coming out of it. Obviously with us being new, we don’t know each other’s tendencies, so we can’t just play off of tendencies. We have to communicate and tell each other what is going on,” said Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Thunder will be back in action on Tuesday in their first preseason game of the year against the Dallas Mavericks in Tulsa’s BOK Center at 7 p.m. CT.
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