Summer League Q & A With Cole Aldrich

ORLANDO -- Cole Aldrich may very well represent the Thunder organization’s aims in regards to player development. Going into his third season in the NBA, Aldrich has had the experience of playing with the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, learning each and every day behind veterans like Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison, and now has the opportunity to learn and grow during the Orlando Summer League.

After the Thunder’s second game of the week, against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, THUNDER.NBA.COM caught up with Aldrich for a Q & A to get a sense of his experience, his development and where he hopes to improve. The backup center saw action in 26 games this season and has had solid outings in the two Summer League games so far.

On his first training camp and summer league:

It’s been fun so far. It’s a learning experience. That’s the biggest way to put it, that it’s a learning experience and being through the league in two years now, I haven’t gotten a ton of playing time, and now it’s time to build on those habits we’ve been working on.

On the uniqueness of Summer League having no fans in attendance:

You just create your own energy. You feed off each other. You have high fives throughout the game to encourage people, even if they’re not doing very well. They’re your teammates, they’re your family. You’ve gone through so much, and to have the guys that come in and work so hard with us, it’s a fun team.

On the importance of Summer League:

I think the biggest thing is that it’s a small step in the journey. It’s a way that you can use these games to figure out what you need to get better at, what you’ve gotten better at and different ways that the coaches can say, ‘Hey you need to keep on doing this. Keep on doing this better and you can do that better.’ It’s just a small little evaluation, but you wouldn’t want to take it really wholeheartedly because everybody hasn’t been together for too long.

On what he wants to improve upon this week:

I think the biggest thing is to continue to work on the pick-and-rolls. With our game today against the Pacers, an up-and-down team, a team that does a lot of pick-and-rolls, just do the little things that you can contain and you can do well throughout the season.

On how he has improved since he first got to the Thunder:

So much. Just learning from guys like Nick (Collison) and (Kendrick) Perkins, and learning little things on the court but also off the court. Maturing as a man. You come from college and you’re 19, 20, 21 years old. You’re thrown into the real world. You have high expectations and you just have to keep on chipping away and getting better every day is the biggest thing.

On what Thunder Assistant Coach Mark Bryant has taught him over the years:

Just seeing the floor more. Defensively, guys coming through the lane, put a forearm on them. When he’s going up, set a ball screen, bump him before he runs up to the ball screen so he can get there in time. Just little things like that, that would go really unnoticed to even an avid fan, they might not even know it. Just little things like that that impact the game so much.

On not getting any free passes in the paint:

You always have to get bumped in the lane when you go through there.

On the intensity of the practices and competition between teammates:

That’s the competitive nature in all of us. Everybody wants to be the best, they want to play really well every day and the fact is that not everybody is going to play well every day. That competitive spirit, if you don’t play well one game, I kind of get on you, and there’s that camaraderie that everybody trusts each other, everybody loves each other and everybody believes in each other.

On being a perfect example of the Thunder’s player development system:

It’s been fun, it’s been hard, it’s been exciting. It’s had its highs, it’s had its lows. But the best thing is that you have great people around you. You have people that support you every day. You have the coaches, front office, teammates, everybody is just so excited to see you every morning and to have that environment, to know that this is a great environment to come in and get better and have people want you to get better, that’s the best thing you could ask as a young player coming into the league.

On his summer plans:

It’s going to be a short, short summer, but we’re going to do Basketball Without Borders in South Africa coming up. I think Serge (Ibaka) and Thabo (Sefolosha) might make it out to South Africa. That’s going to be a huge blessing for us, to see that part of the world and Serge is from that area, so hopefully he can touch on some things. Some things that I’ve never seen in my life and some real life-changing experiences. It’s going to be so much fun but it’s going to be a lot of hard work this summer too though. It’ll be a lot of time in the gym, in the weight room and just working to get better.


Check back this afternoon for a recap of the Thunder’s Summer League contest against the Detroit Pistons, and also follow along with the live in-game chat during the game at noon CT.