Getting a group of NBA players to gather on one spot during the offseason frequently is a futile quest. The Oklahoma City Thunder did it three times in the lockout summer of 2011, an achievement that has veteran center Nazr Mohammed still shaking his head.
The Thunder held voluntary camps at the University of Texas in Austin,the University of Kentucky in Lexington and at Southern Nazarene in Bethany. Mohammed said those four-day sessions meant something at the time and could mean even more with an abbreviated regular season about to start.“As far as what we did, we were fortunate,” Mohammed explained after Tuesday’s morning shoot-around session in preparation for the second and final preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks. “Guys were working out (during the summer), everybody came in pretty good shape, but what it did was sell team chemistry. Anybody’s who’s been in this league, or been around this league, knows how hard it is to get 10-11 NBA players from the same team to a gym in Kentucky to work out on their break – and we did it three times where we got 10-plus guys. That just shows the character of our team (more) than what we did. Everybody was working out, everybody was in shape, but it’s great to know you can call your teammates up and say, ‘Hey, we’re working out,’ and everybody shows up.”
The condensed training camp no doubt will hurt several teams, but not the Thunder, which has only two new faces on its roster in rookie Reggie Jackson and second-year forward Lazar Hayward, plus camp signee Ryan Reid. However, Mohammed said there are still subtleties and intricacies that must be ironed out.
“In everybody’s mind we all think. ‘Hey, it’s basketball. We’re ready. Couple of practices. Put us on the court,’ ” Mohammed said. “The timing of it and getting used to guys’ tendencies again, and the fact they’ve worked on their game so much in the summer and guys want to implement that into the game, and you’re a player who hasn’t seen that in a game … So there’s going to be some turnovers. There’s going to be some timing issues at the beginning. But as far as being in shape, being on the same page, I think we’re ready. Everybody’s got to get into their role.
“One thing that coach (Terry) Stotts told me (while coach Atlanta) was, ‘Nazr, I don’t need you’re ‘A’ game. Just give me your ‘B’ game. Don’t show me all your moves,’ ” Mohammed said. “That’s going to have to be something we have to implement on our team. ‘Hey, you worked on your game during the summer, you’re a better player, but for this team you’ve got to sacrifice and give us what we need for us to win.’ ”
Mohammed said having a talented bench also will be a great benefit.
“For a season like this, depth is huge,” Mohammed said. “It’s going to be nice (for) when guys get up out of their bed after their naps and you’re not going to want to play. That happens. We get paid a lot to do this, but that happens. Having a lot of depth, knowing you can depend on another guy, from coach’s (Scott Brooks’) standpoint is going to be huge because he knows he can just go down the line and put somebody else in the game.”