Three things to know from Monday’s practice, the second to last before the Thunder take on another team Wednesday in Minnesota:
1. Cameron Payne said a lot of the training camp focus offensively has been on scoring at the rim and setting up open 3s. Payne noted that there’s been more of an emphasis on reducing long 2-pointers. “They talk about a lot of midrange is not really a good shot, a lot closer around the basket and 3s are the best shots in the NBA,” Payne said. “That’s what they’ve been talking about all week and I’ve been picking up on that.”
I don’t know necessarily that’s a major new development that’s taking place under Billy Donovan, but certainly there were some culprits of the inefficient contested long 2 (cough Dion Waiters cough). It’s a focus this team has offensively at least, to try and generate as much as possible in the more efficient areas on the floor. Not exactly mind-blowing basketball.
Donovan was asked about it and gave a roundabout answer:
“Well, it’s always been a major factor for me defensively,” he said. “I think a lot of times, it’s like anything else, if you’re going to be a team that’s going to try and force and create a lot of turnovers, and you turn the ball over a bunch, well it’s a wash. You don’t get any benefit out of it. I think the one thing you’ve got to look at from the 3-point line is I think defending it may be more important than taking it. Even coming from college where the 3-point line is closer, the same distance all the way around, it has a huge impact in the college game because there’s so many guys from a range standpoint that can take that shot. And I’ve always been a big, big believer in defending the 3.”
2. Payne was also asked about what it’s been like guarding Russell Westbrook. “I’ll tell you one thing, my defense has picked up.” Obviously that’s a given that Westbrook is going to challenge you, but it really hit me today. Think of Cam Payne, walking into his first Thunder practice and having Westbrook tear after him downhill. That has to be a bit intimidating.
Payne admitted Westbrook got him recently with a crossover, but noted that Westbrook has been excellent in helping the rookie, particularly in understanding pick-and-roll situations. Which is something Donovan noted in talking about Westbrook, is how underrated his leadership skills are.
“You watch a player play and can see an intensity and a competitiveness and you can see a will to win and a fire in him and those things stand out really clearly to you,” Donovan said. “Being as talented and gifted as he is as a player, I think he’s got unbelievable leadership qualities. I think he’s also got incredible basketball IQ and intelligence. He really reads things very well. But I think he’s really a good person. He’s a great guy. I think sometimes when you watch a guy like that play and see his intensity and aggressiveness, it’s easy just to look at him and try and envision what kind of person he may be. But he’s such a great guy that comes from a great family.
“He can really elevate an entire team. He can get a team to play at a high intensity level and can keep everybody engaged.”
3. Steven Adams’ back is fine. Donovan talked a bit about it and said Adams did a light workout today and holding him back is simply “precautionary.”