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There was a decidedly different tone this time around at Thunder media day compared to last season’s.
Other than no lockout questions.
But last season Scott Brooks made it a point to say he didn’t mention the word championship a single time in addressing his team. It was all on the same well-trodden Thunder message of getting better everyday, taking things one step at a time.
Well, things have changed. The Thunder made a trip to the Finals and completely blew the lid off of that stuff. Not to say Brooks and the Thunder gave a “title or bust” kind of declaration Monday, but there was a whole new feel to it all. It wasn’t taboo to talk about a title. It was pretty clear that that’s the mission.
“You can’t win the championship now, you have to build to that,” said Nick Collison. “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.”
It would be unavoidable to ignore a championship goal. Idiotic, really. Because yes, the focus has to be on the now and the short-term of improving, but in the big picture, the Thunder have a very clear mission of finishing what they didn’t last season.
Something that they feel better equipped to do this time around. Kendrick Perkins didn’t sugarcoat it: He feels like the Thunder were a bit shellshocked by the Finals.
“I think the Finals was overwhelming to a lot of us,” he said. “I think we got caught up in being in the Finals and quit playing basketball.”
For example, via Perk: “Serge came back from this summer and he told me, he said, ‘Man, I felt like God.’ And we didn’t even win the Finals, just from being in the Finals, he’s like it’s unbelievable. I told him, I said, ‘Winning a championship, nothing tops that.'”
There’s no way to simulate experience and the Thunder had plenty of them last season. You can’t place a value on experiencing the Finals and the pressures and challenges of trying to win a title. The Thunder have taken major steps over the last four years, but getting over the hump and reaching the Finals was monumental.
Now it’s about building on and taking one more step.
NOTES AND QUOTES:
- KD on losing in the Finals: “It was so tough to lose. Because I really thought it was our time.”
- Harden said he has been talking a lot to Westbrook about his contract drama. He also said his teammates have been extremely supportive making it “easy.”
- KD on working out with LeBron: “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.”
- There were a lot of questions to players about Westbrook looking bigger and stronger. I think folks were just confusing him with Daniel Orton.
- Orton said he’s been getting mistaken for Westbrook everywhere. “Too many,” he said when asked how many times it’s happened. “It’s getting to the point where I don’t even tell them anymore. Just take the picture.”
- Orton said he was completely healthy last season with the Magic and that he’s entirely healthy headed into camp.
- Westbrook on putting on weight: “A few pounds, a few pounds. We gonna keep it at 187 though. That’s what the media guide says.”
- Daequan Cook: “Russ is Russ. He could probably take a year off and come back bigger, stronger and faster.” Reggie Jackson on Westbrook: “He looks like he’s always flexing. He looks like one of those He-Man dolls.”
- KD: “I think I got some good rest. I was able to take a few weeks off, and that’s the first time I did that in a while.”
- Eric Maynor is fully cleared for play and has no limitations or restrictions.
- Perk on the new flopping rules: “I like that. I like that. It just take away from the game man … It’s just bad for the game and I’m glad they’re finally making guys stand by it now.”
- Harden on flopping: “It’s good. Guys can’t be flopping and getting away with it anymore.” Exactly, James.
- Ibaka said the Oklahoma State-Texas game was the first football game he’s ever been to. When asked if he’d want to play football he said, “Hell no.”
- Players were asked multiple times about fatigue after the long road to the Finals and then with the trip to the Olympics. I thought we were past all those kind of questions after the lockout condensed season.
- One good sign: There wasn’t a single question to new players about what they thought about Oklahoma City or Oklahoma. Maybe the Oklahoma media finally isn’t looking for weird validation of their city and state from basketball players.
- Scott Brooks, who was outed as driving a Prius last season, showed up today driving a new Jeep. Putting that new big dollar extension to work. Well done, Scotty.
- Thabo said he has a mild thigh contusion and will be working through that some during camp.
- Westbrook on the Lakers: “It’s good. It’s good. It’s good for them … Definitely makes them a team to compete with.”
- Thabo: “We are definitely not going to come into practice and think about the Lakers.”
- Harden was asked about KD getting a panda named after him and what kind of animal should be named after him: “It would have to be something hairy,” he said.
- Brooks said he’s challenged Westbrook to get better in the post. And Westbrook said it’s an area of his game he’s focused on because he can create “advantages” there.
- Westbrook on Harden’s negotiations: “It’s tough. I was in the same boat last year…James is going to make the best decision for him and his family.”
- Brooks said Harden’s uncertain future won’t be a distraction at all.
- Cole Aldrich’s season goal: “Just to be the best that Cole Aldrich can be.” Aldrich said his main focus is improving his pick-and-roll defense.
- Perk on if he’s over the Finals loss: “Nah I still don’t watch SportsCenter to this day because of it.” Harden said he’s over it though.