Day One: Getting Better Together – Sept. 26, 2017

A flurry of summer activity by General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti and his staff swept in a veteran, talented cast of characters into Oklahoma City for the 2017-18 season.

Now everyone is in the building, and there’s less than a month to go until opening night against the New York Knicks on Oct. 19. There’s three players with 20 All-Star appearances headlining the roster, but Head Coach Billy Donovan’s duty will be to make all 15 players who make the final roster a cohesive unit. As the Thunder opened U.S. Cellular Training Camp on Tuesday morning with its first practice, that’s precisely the mission the team embarked upon.

“We have to become a team. It’s a collection of all of us,” Donovan said. We still have to be a team if we want to achieve the things we’re trying to achieve.”

The Thunder, with newcomers Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Patrick Patterson, Raymond Felton, Terrance Ferguson and five training camp invitees, went through a variety of drills on Tuesday to start getting game-ready. Shell drills to begin putting in some offensive and defensive concepts along with some shooting and the end of the session helped the Thunder hit the ground running.

“We’re trying to get as much as we can out of the practices. We’re trying to obtain as much as we can,” center Steven Adams said. “For the new guys the terminology is different. They’re getting up to date on that.”

“But its English, mate, they’ll get over it quick,” Adams smirked.

The key to it all for Donovan is being able to maximize the skillsets of his players in a meaningful way. Fortunately, that’s the precise quality that attracted Presti and the Thunder organization to Donovan in the first place. The Thunder’s head man has always had the ability to manufacture success regardless of style of play and the strengths and weaknesses of his roster.

“Instead of a player fitting to a system, you have to fit systems around players,” Donovan noted.

“Chemistry doesn’t just happen overnight,” Anthony said. “You have to work towards that. You have to stay in the gym and build that bond between the guys. It’s not just about me, Russ and PG. It’s everybody.”

While Donovan and his staff have certainly studied their newcomers and have an idea of how they’ll fit, the process of acclimation and assimilation will not happen overnight. By the time the final stretch of the season rolls around, the Thunder will hopefully had the chance to gel and be playing its best basketball of the year.

“It’s a lot different playing against someone and knowing their tendencies on defense than playing with someone and knowing their tendencies,” Adams explained. “That just comes with time. You can’t rush that.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Melo's First Thunder Practice

Although the news erupted on Saturday, the Thunder’s trade to land Anthony didn’t become official until Monday morning, just before Media Day began. Some of the travel and newness has been a whirlwind 48 hours for the 10-time All-Star forward, but overall, Anthony seemed calm and at peace.

“Today is kind of a new beginning for me when I can focus just on basketball and that’s it,” Anthony said, a hint of his Brooklyn-born accent sneaking through.

“I focused on the first day of training camp, getting better, getting everybody together. Today was the first day we could focus on our goal, which is trying to win a championship and trying to compete at a high level every night,” Anthony continued.

Donovan revealed, though it is likely little surprise to most, that Anthony will be the Thunder’s starter at the power forward position this season. Both Donovan and Anthony explained that this is a position that Anthony has played on numerous occasions, particularly with the Denver Nuggets and Team USA. With the way the NBA has changed to more position-less basketball, Anthony will simply be able to utilize his strengths within the offensive flow.

“We’re going to enjoy this ride, this journey right now,” Anthony said. “It’s about enjoying this as much as we can, having fun playing basketball, winning and competing and today was the start of that.”

“Dealing with adversity, that’s going to be our test, when things don’t go our way,” Anthony added. “We don’t know when it’s going to come but it’s going to come. Our true test is going to be when we hit that adversity, how we bounce back from that, how we react to that and what we’re going to do to get over that hump.”

Watch: Melo on First Day of Camp

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

News & Notes

- The only injury news to report from Donovan was that both Russell Westbrook and Patrick Patterson did not participate in today’s opening session. Westbrook is day-to-day as he gives his knee time to settle after a routine PRP injection, while Patterson is still recovering from a minor offseason knee surgery.

- Today was the first chance for Anthony to be on the floor alongside Adams. Here was his review of the hulking Kiwi:

  • “Steven Adams is a monster. He’s a monster like somebody from Game of Thrones or something.”

- After his joke landed, Anthony had more to say about his “athletic and active” big man who can get up to the level of the screen and switch out onto smaller defenders.

  • “I love him. The first day, his energy and what he brings to the game and to the court, his energy is incredible.”
  • “We know in order for us to be successful, we’re going to need Steven Adams,” Anthony added. “He’s a major, major part of what we’re trying to accomplish.” 

- Anthony has been adorned with positive energy since he arrived in Oklahoma City, much like George, Patterson, Felton and others have been when they joined the Thunder. As an opponent, Anthony already was wise to OKC’s zealous fandom. He’s thrilled to experience firsthand.

  • “As a player we’ve always talked about that energy being the best energy in the NBA, and maybe sports period,” Anthony said. “The energy, the support system throughout OKC is unbelievable, and we haven’t even gotten started yet.”

- Adams was asked about his first interactions with Anthony, and was told of the forward’s Game of Thrones, monster description.

  • “That’s a bit rude,” Adams quipped with his New Zealand-earned vocal inflection.

- Adams then went on to discuss the dynamics of adding new people to the locker room, in a way that only he can.

  • “They’re good lads. They’re here to win. That’s what comes first. You have your on-court persona and your off-court. If your off-court is good, and you’re a good guy, then you can do whatever on the court. You can punch one of your teammates in the face, mate, that’s okay with me mate. Good in my books.” As for calling someone a monster? “That’s too far. That’s where we draw the line,” Adams deadpanned.