The Oklahoma City Thunder are ramping up the activity this week, as we have been treated to a variety of reports both about media day and early practice. Let's check out some of the highlights.
Royce Young gets a plethora of great quotes from a number of players in this post. He notes the particularly astute and, we might say, honest tone about how the players feel about their first Finals experience together. I think this is a good thing, because before they can improve and take the final step they have to first recognize what was wrong. And one of the big things that went wrong is that collectively, they weren't quite ready to play.
Nick Collison on the team's mindset:
"You can’t win the championship now, you have to build to that...But then also, if we don’t win a championship, we’re going to be disappointed for sure. After playing in the Finals, that’s naturally what we want to do. We want to build a championship team here. But talking about it doesn’t do any good. The work that you do every day is what’s going to get you there. So our mindset has to be the same in that regard...
"I think the Finals was overwhelming to a lot of us. I think we got caught up in being in the Finals and quit playing basketball."
Kevin Durant on playing against and then LeBron James:
"I’ve been friends with him since I was in high school. To play on the same team with him after we lost to him in the Finals was the toughest thing… but I had to let that go and focus on Team USA. And that’s what I did and I grew a lot as far as mentally as letting things go and moving on… A lot of people blew the me and LeBron working out thing together out of proportion. It was just one day. I just wanted to work out. I would’ve worked out with Kobe Bryant, I would’ve worked out with Carmelo Anthony. I just wanted to work out and get better and he was the first guy that called me."
James Harden on the new flopping rules. Heh.
"It’s good. Guys can’t be flopping and getting away with it anymore."
Lastly, Young noted that Scott Brooks showed up driving a Range Rover after years of driving a Prius. No complaints here, as long as he doesn't take the Jeff Van Gundy route.
Darnell Mayberry lends his eyes and ears to us to get a good glimpse of this season's Thunder. Unfortunately a number of players have some minor dings, and Eric Maynor is still working to get back into game-shape after missing most of last season with a torn ACL.
Here are a few of Mayberry's comments:
Eric Maynor wore a knee brace on his right knee and will continue to use it in practices and possibly the games. But Brooks said he’s back and good to go. "We wouldn’t put him out there if he wasn’t," Brooks said. "He’s ready to go. I thought the last couple of weeks he really stepped up the level of intensity and really showed himself that he can get out there and do it."
A part of PJIII’s potential impact is his potential to be a stretch 4 defender. It’s a position that the Thunder sort of lacks the ability to contain, as evidenced by Serge Ibaka playing that role against Shane Battier in the Finals.
Expect Collison to look for his offense more this season, particularly with the mid-range jumper. He said at his exit interview back in June that he wanted to come back and be a threat in that area. And he said again today that he’s still planning on that being a part of his game this season. "I want to look for open shots and be an option," Collison said. "With the way teams play us, they jump pick-and-rolls and we have to be able to throw out and hit shots. I shot the ball well last year. I just want to be able to make some more opportunities for myself."
Finally, here are a few video clips on the NBA site to check out: