Practice Report: Notes and Quotes
Nuggets from my notebook from day two of training camp.
- We got to see more than free throws! OK, so it was just shooting drills, but still. It’s a start.
- By the time doors opened today there were five groups stationed at various baskets all working on different things. Kevin Durant, Perry Jones III and Serge Ibaka were working on 1-on-1 skills. Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook, Eric Maynor and Walker Russell were going around the arc shooting 3-pointers. DeAndre Liggins, Hollis Thompson and Andy Rautins were flaring to the corner for 3s. James Harden, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward were shooting from the perimeter. And Cole Aldrich, Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton and Nick Collison were practicing mid-range jumpers.
- Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha were sitting out by the time we walked in.
- A few observations from those drills: Durant’s post D against Ibaka looked solid. On several occasions, Durant stripped the ball from Ibaka after Ibaka made a post move but just before he went up for the shot. Or KD contested Ibaka’s shot so well that he tipped it. Good sign. Maynor’s shot mechanics still has that wind up before his release. But it was going in, so who cares? PJIII looked comfortable attacking, but as a rookie he still has minor details to learn, as evidenced by coach’s pulling him aside and trying to show him angles and such.
- Jackson took his turn today praising PJII. First, when asked to recall his first impressions of Jones, Jackson said “What a freak. What. A. Freak.” “I believe it’s still showing,” Jackson said. “Still raw talent, but he’s getting better. You can tell coach M.B., Mark Bryant is working with him and he’s getting better each and every day. I think you guys seen the one-on-ones over there. He’s really starting to challenge KD. I believe his length can really challenge KD every day in practice and help him get better and our whole team. He tries do to it all. He can dribble a little. He can iso, post up, pick and pop. There’s not really much he can’t do. And then I feel like when he jumps it’s forever. It’s endless hangtime. So maybe we can get a few lobs to him this year and get him going.”
- I continue to be interested in which coach PJIII is working out with. Bryant is the big man’s coach, which would suggest the team sees him as a 4. But if PJIII alternates and works with Brian Keefe or Maz Trakh or Rex Kalamian, that could indicate that the team wants to get him some work on the wing as well. For now, it appears they’re looking at Jones as more of an inside 4 with stretch 4 potential.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks today was as candid as he’s been about the minutes at backup point guard. Our man John Rohde asked a great question and it provided a great answer. When Rohde asked Brooks about his philosophy in handling players’ roles and minutes when they return from injury, Brooks said “going into a new season I think the minutes have to be earned. During the season, if that happened and he came back then that would be something different. There’s a lot of games between his injury and now. So I think that spot is open. That spot is open. We have two great choices…I think with those two guys it’s going to be interesting to watch.”
- Brooks on Jackson: “Reggie’s really improved his game. He’s confident. It’s a learning curve in this league, and sometimes it takes longer than others, some players. I thought they both came back in great spirits, good shape, and the last two days have been very competitive.”
- Brooks on Maynor: “I think Eric looks great. He really did a lot of great work in his rehab and getting back and being ready to play the first day of training camp…He looks good. It’s very competitive. That’s what we want as a coach and a staff is to have a competitive camp.”
- When asked what area of his game has improved the most, Jackson said “leadership.” He said he’s more vocal and more confident.
- I’ll be writing about it later this week. But it’s worth noting here. Brooks told me that he plans on sitting Durant and Westbrook for one preseason game. Brooks said he doesn’t envision sitting them for more than one exhibition and isn’t sure which one it’ll be yet. But it’s a plan in part designed to get other players opportunities. Just throwing spaghetti at the wall here, but my guess is it’ll be the third, fourth or fifth game that the big guns sit. I was essentially told that it won’t be the last, and cuts generally start happening following the second or third game (depending on a team’s injury situation) to start getting the regular guys their regular reps.
- Brooks praised Thompson today. “He has a great stroke,” Brooks said. “He’s a shooter. He’s very athletic and he has good size. He has active hands defensively. He’s intriguing. He has to continue to work and improve.”
- Thompson came into camp recovering from groin surgery. After originally discussing it weeks before the start of the season, he told reporters at media day that he was no longer supposed to discuss his injury. But Brooks revealed today that he is healthy. Thompson did say that he anticipates playing this preseason.
- Someone asked me today who I think would get that 15th roster spot. I think it goes to Thompson. But I’m starting to think there’s a pretty good chance of Orton getting the call. Why? 1) Perk’s health issues help Orton’s cause. 2) It’s much easier to find young shooters than it is to find young big men with potential. 3) The Thunder has long been intrigued by Orton. 4) It’s not that Sam Presti loves big men projects, but he understands how difficult and expensive it is to land a serviceable big. And with the current and future financial obligations, that’s next to impossible. So you have to develop one. 5) Orton is cheap. Even if he makes the team, Orton still will be on the hook for less than $1 million. So you take your chances.
- Those new practice jerseys I linked to yesterday. Turns out they’re part of a league-wide look that every team has.
- I tweeted this earlier, but only the preseason finale will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports Oklahoma. All seven preseason games can be heard on the radio.
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