Well, what did we learn?
Honestly, not too much. It was a lot of your typical media-speak. Lots of stuff about working hard and taking it one day at a time and just getting better. But there were a few interesting things.
- It was much different than any media day I’ve been to. I’ve been to two OU football media days and let me tell you, Thunder media day isn’t quite the same event. I counted maybe 30 media members there whereas at an OU football media day, you can’t count it. The huddles around Scott Brooks and Kevin Durant are nothing like the ones around Bob Stoops and Sam Bradford. I don’t say that as a bad thing but this franchise still has a ways to go in branding itself to the state. Thunder media day isn’t quite the full on EVENT that OU or even OSU media days are.
- Defense. Defense. Defense. Evidently it’s very important. Everybody preached it. Scott Brooks said that was the focus of training camp. Basically every player said that was what they wanted to get better at. And you know what, it’s the easy “correct” answer. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “You know, we just want to be a better offensive team.” Forget the fact that statistically Oklahoma City was a worse offensive team than defensive last year, the focus is defense. I remember defense being the main calling card going into camp last season with P.J. Carlesimo and the Thunder started off on pace to be the worst offensive team ever under him. Hopefully, things are different this year.
- Speaking defense, Brooks said he wanted the team to be more aggressive on the ball.
- Virtually everyone was asked about the possibility of the playoffs and if it was a goal. Brooks made a face before answering, “Will it be something I talk about? Absolutely not. We’re going to talk about making progress. We’re going to talk about getting better. We feel like if we do the things that we talk about tonight and every day in camp, good things will happen. I’m not going say it’s not possible because every team plays to make the playoffs.” Shaun Livingston said, “It’s a possibility. It’s all about believing.”
- Kevin Durant’s goal going into the summer was to put on 10 pounds of lean muscle. He said he put on about five or six. He said he worked a lot on ballhandling and help defense during pickup games during the summer. He mentioned that the extra muscle has helped in his ballhandling not getting bumped off the ball as easily.
- Durant said the best birthday present he’s ever gotten was a Sega on his eighth birthday that came with Mortal Kombat and a couple baseball games. He described that day as, “The best day of my life.” I must say I’m jealous. I wasn’t allowed to play Mortal Kombat when I was little because of the perceived gore it had. I remember going to Crystal’s (fellow Okie’s, remember Crystal’s?) and just standing in front of the arcade version watching the demo, wishing I could play it. I actually think I lied to some friends one time and said I was unbeatable with Sub-Zero, even though I had never played it. And I still haven’t to this day. Maybe I should add that to my bucket list.
- There was a lot of talk about James Harden. Thabo described him as a “great shooter.” Nick Collison said Harden could become the good knockdown shooter that the team’s missed in the past. Livingston made some bold statements about Harden saying that he could “run away” with the rookie of the year award. He qualified it by saying it depended on what “that guy in L.A.” does. Livingston also said Harden is underrated, even with being taken third overall.
- Collison was wearing a pair of KD1’s. He was the only guy (other than Durant) wearing them.
- On Serge Ibaka, Collison said: “I’m really impressed with Ibaka. I had never seen him before but for a young athlete, he has a really good feel for the game. Some of the African players haven’t had that feel, maybe necessarily but have been more projects. Like Mouhamed Sene seemed like he really struggled with the feel for the game. He had the tools but Ibaka is a lot different. He really knows how to play. I think he’s had some good coaching. He’s really impressive.”
- An aside about Ibaka: He looks like a statue. He’s got more guns than Delonte West (Hi-oh!). He is an absolute specimen. The best way I think I could describe his physique would be to say, think a 6’11” Adrian Peterson. Maybe the NBA can do a shirtless ad with Ibaka running a 40.
- Westbrook mentioned that he’s helping Ibaka with his English and did what any good English teacher should do. “I taught him all the bad words first.”
- Jeff Green said his No. 1 focus during the offseason was his mid-range jumper. When Darnell Mayberry asked him how he worked on that, Green wittily replied, “By taking mid-range jumpshots.” It was pretty clear that Uncle Jeff has got some wit and by the end of this season, he may be the go-to quote on this team.
- I honestly think Kevin Durant could touch the top of the Chase Building, flat-footed. Standing next to him, he is so long and tall than I think I strained my neck trying to make eye-contact for a “What’s up.”
- James Harden’s beard may be in jeopardy. Evidently, he and D.J. White get confused for each other a lot (I never really saw it). And so there was some discussion about who should shave the beard to help them be more easily distinguished. Harden said White should since, “I’ve had it longer.” White said, “He should. He’s a rookie. I’m a second-year guy.” Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook both agreed the rookie should shave.
- These guys really, really, really like each other. Livingston described it as an AAU feel. Young guys all hanging out, doing stuff together and enjoying each other. They had a picnic yesterday in Arcadia where they rode dirt bikes and just hung out. Durant said: “We do everything together. It starts there. On the floor, we argue with each other like brothers actually. We get after it, we push each other hard. That’s going to help us throughout the year.”
- Kyle Weaver must really be taking after Thabo. He lost the corn rows as well.
- Nobody talked to Ryan Bowen. And I mean nobody. I felt bad. I know nothing about him and wouldn’t have had a single thing to ask, but I wanted to go up and try to say something. “Uh, hi Ryan. So… you like basketball…. and you’re tall… what’s that like?”
All in all, nothing revolutionary came from it, but there’s a lot of excitement about the season. It was great being there and it was more difficult than I anticipated getting questions off. Like I said, I’ve covered lots of stuff before, but the players had to be rushed off to do pictures and whatnot, so it was hard to get them 1-on-1. And it’s kind of hard to ask “blog” questions with actual writers and reporters all standing around you. I want to get invited back, alright? (Speaking of, it looks like I’m going to get credentialed some for the season. Access!)
I’ve got some audio I’m going to upload as well, so be looking for that. There’s a lot more stuff that happened so if something wasn’t covered in the above bullets, ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.