The first official day of practice gets underway today, putting an end (you would think) to all of Monday’s questions about uniforms and relocation and impressions of Oklahoma. Xs and Os should finally take the place of everything else. But before the team begins its first practice and I check in here with the first practice report, here’s some of what was said at Monday’s media day.
Coach P.J. Carlesimo on ticket sales: “Unbelievable. Even though you expect it or you think it’s going to happen, it’s something that we all can’t take for granted. It’s incredibly special. Maybe that’s the way it is in Oklahoma… It’s really incredible in this day and age with the economy and all the things that’s going on and all the things you read about sports to be in a place where the enthusiasm is not just good, it’s so over the top it’s exceptional. I’m going to really try and be careful and not take it for granted and not just say, ‘Well, that’s the way we knew it was going to be here so that’s normal.’ This is not normal. It’s exceptional, and we’re really grateful for it.”
Carlesimo on Durant becoming more of a vocal leader: “I think that’s something that just evolves. I wouldn’t put that on him. If it happens great. We’ve got a nice mix of leadership. I think you always look for your best players to lead. But I don’t want him to necessarily feel like he’s got to usurp that from anybody else. I just think that will naturally happen.”
Carlesimo on the importance of October to Russell Westbrook: “In one sense very, very important. In the other sense meaningless. We’re going to look back years from now and no one’s going to remember or have any clue what Russell did in October of his rookie year. But by the same token, we want to hasten his development. We want to put him in situations even in (the first five preseason games), anything we can do to accelerate the process is good. We did that with Kevin and Jeff last year. We anticipate doing that with our young guys again.”
Carlesimo on the importance of the division: “Half the teams in the league I don’t think know who the teams in their division are. It matters if you win your division. But other than that it’s just where you finish in the conference.”
Nick Collison on the uniforms: “I really like them. To be honest, when I heard of the colors I couldn’t really see how they go together very well. It seemed like a lot of different colors. But when I saw the uniforms they looked great. I really was impressed with them when I saw them today.”
Kevin Durant on adjusting to the physicality of the NBA: “The league is very physical. It’s grown man strength up here. In college you’re dealing with a lot of boys. But up here it’s grown men. I just told myself not to get in there. I know I’m not the strongest guy. I just let my talents kind of take over and always get better. I worked hard in the weight room this summer, so hopefully it pays off.”
Durant on how much he matured last season: “I came in and was thrown right in the fire early. I’m glad I was put in that position. I’m happy to be a part of a great organization that relies so much on me to step up and be professional. And I’m happy that I can do that. This year is going to be a new year for us. I grew up a lot last year, going through a lot of different things. Hopefully this is a better year for us.”
Durant on what he’s looking forward to this season: “Just playing in front of a sellout crowd every night. That’s something that we didn’t have too much of in Seattle. But here, playing in front of sellouts every night, it’s going to be just like I’m in college again. So I’m excited.”
I’ll post a few more later from Robert Swift, D.J. White, Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith.