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Nuggets from my notebook from Day 2 of exit interviews

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: June 3, 2014 at 10:45 am •  Published: June 2, 2014
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Oklahoma City Thunder's Perry Jones talks to the media during exit interviews at the teams practice facility in Oklahoma City, Monday June2, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City Thunder's Perry Jones talks to the media during exit interviews at the teams practice facility in Oklahoma City, Monday June2, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Today was the last day of exit interviews for players.

With the Thunder getting most of the veterans out of the way Sunday, the young guns took their turn today. We spoke with Hasheem Thabeet, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, Andre Roberson and the always entertaining Steven Adams. Grant Jerrett didn’t meet with the media because there was no need, and Caron Butler was said to be ill Sunday and allegedly slipped out today after an oversight by team officials. Believe that if you will. Color me skeptical.

Videos of today’s interviews already are being posted online. Adams is a must-watch. The dude is hilarious. Here’s what I heard and took away from Monday’s session.

  • The Thunder’s summer league roster will again be stacked. Lamb, Jones and Adams all said they’re in. Roberson is, too. Jerrett’s highly likely to participate, as well as at least one pick in this year’s draft. Of course, just because Lamb and Jones are traveling to Orlando (the Thunder doesn’t compete in Vegas) doesn’t mean they’ll play in all five games during the week. We’ve seen that in the past with guys like Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook and even Kevin Durant. At any rate, I’m looking forward to summer league. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, and the Thunder will again have guys who matter and need to have big summers.
  • Lamb said he hasn’t thought about whether he’ll receive a bigger role next season. “Bigger role? I haven’t thought about it, what I want the role to be or anything like that,” he said. “Just been thinking about the summer, try to get better, be the best player I can be going into next year. Haven’t really thought about that.”
  • Lamb said he wanted to help in any way he could, whether he’s the sixth man next year or not. “I want to help the team in any way possible really,” Lamb said. “So if that’s coming in playing defense, or coming in scoring, whatever the team needs most that’s what I want to do.”
  • Speaking of defense, Lamb confirmed what we all suspected. “At first, I didn’t care about defense at all,” he said.
  • To his credit, Lamb said he will focus heavily on becoming a better defender this summer. “I’m definitely, definitely going to work on my defense,” he said. “Seeing these players that lock you up, then go score on you, that motivates me. So I definitely will work on my defense and come back a much better defensive player. I think that will help me being a whole overall player. When you disrupt on both ends of the floor, I think that’s huge.”
  • Lamb said watching Westbrook has motivated him to be a better defender. “He competes on the defensive end so hard and he goes and does the same thing on offense. Seeing that, people really be scared to handle against him. Or scared to make a soft pass. They’re always looking over their shoulder, seeing where he’s at. That’s aggravating to the players that he plays against. He’s one of the players that really inspired me to play both ways.”
  • To improve his defense, Lamb said he will play a lot of one on one this summer. He spent a portion of his summer last year in New York, playing against guys like Tobias Harris and Kemba Walker
  • Lamb also said he wants to work on his ball-handling skills and ability to attack the rim.
  • Asked the one thing he feels he currently can bring consistently, Lamb said scoring.
  • I thought Lamb handled the addition of Butler real well all season. There was one occasion late in the season that Lamb wore his emotions on his sleeves after a game and clearly was upset with his role. But for the most part, he remained professional about the whole thing. He said Monday that the Thunder bringing in Butler did motivate him. “But when he came in, because he went to UConn I learned a lot from him. He told me a lot of different things. So I think I really benefited from him coming. Of course I wanted to be on the floor. Of course I wanted to compete and all that. And I still had my chances in the playoffs, but him coming was good for me. He was real inspiring to me. So it was good to see him come.”
  • Lamb wants to get stronger: “Yeah, it’s going to be huge, getting stronger. I think that’s going to be a big part for me this summer, and that’s going to help my game a lot.”
  • Most think Butler, Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha are all gone next year. But another guy to keep an eye on is Thabeet. He’s entering the final year of his deal, a non-guaranteed year that could pay him roughly $1.2 million. The Thunder loves Thabeet, everything from his attitude, to his work ethic, size, skills and ability to make an impact when called upon. So my guess is he’ll be back. But if something presents itself, a potential trade or free agent acquisition that calls for the Thunder to shed a little salary, it’s not out of the question that the team parts ways with Thabeet. I think Thabeet is back. But it’s worth watching.
  • Thabeet said he plans on returning. “That’s the goal,” he said. “I don’t know anything else. I haven’t heard anything else. I’m going to be here over the summer working out. That’s really all I can say about that situation”
  • Thabeet on how difficult it is to stay ready when you’re not playing: “It’s tough, man. It’s tough. It’s like being on a standby flight.”
  • I like PJ3. I think he’s a great guy. I think he’s got great ability. I want to see him succeed. But I think it’s time to wonder whether that will happen here. After two seasons, he still is admittedly a deer in the headlights. His comments today did little to inspire confidence that next year could be his breakout season. Some of it can be chalked up to his situation. Most of it might fall on him. He talked about wanting to be a versatile player on offense and defense and finding his niche. Of course, Scott Brooks this season labeled him a “utility defender,” which is a bit of a stretch. But for Perry to still not have any idea where he fits on this team or how he can best make an impact is more than a little troubling after two seasons.
  • Where I really grew alarmed was at Perry’s answer to a question I asked about whether he’s figured out ways to make his athleticism show up on the court. “Not yet, but that’s something I’ve got to get comfortable with, something that I’ve got to get used to doing the whole time I’m on the court,” he said. “That’s a hard task to do. The only person that does that is Russell. Hopefully this summer I can have that mindset.” Matt Pinto then asked a great follow-up question, and, while he was being honest, Perry sort of summed up what to me seems to be his biggest issue. Pinto asked if it’s mostly about his mindset. “I think so,” Jones said. “It’s a mindset thing. I have the ability to do things, but if you have a little doubt or something like that, it’s going to be tougher to do.”
  • Jones was asked if he thinks playing time will ever come in OKC with KD around. “It’s tough, but I think eventually, the time will come,” he said. “It all depends on how I develop this summer, and hopefully, I can learn some things, find out some things about myself. Find my niche, and hopefully, it will keep me on the floor.”
  • On what surprised him about the NBA: “What surprised me? Probably the biggest thing is the private planes. Wow, that thing’s amazing. Got all the food on there, a bunch of drinks. I don’t know, It’s just amazing, never seen nothing like it. Tables, tables on planes, that’s amazing. That was probably the biggest ‘whoa’ for me, like ‘I made it’. This big private jet, you’re like ‘whoa.’
  • On his ‘welcome-to-the-NBA moment’ on the court: “Probably the biggest reality check I’m in the NBA was in practice. That was probably the biggest ones. There would be a day, Perk, he was there. And we were like scrimmaging or whatever and we kinda got into it like we clashed. I’m innocent, I didn’t do anything, I accidentally hit him. And then like, he turned around and elbowed me in the ribs and I’m like ‘oh my God’ (holding ribs). Then he just yelled at me: “I’m the only silverback!” I was like “What the…?” So that was a big check, it was like, “We got some animals in the NBA.”
  • On whether he was surprised at how many players elbowed or hit him and got ejected: “Yeah, I mean, I didn’t have an expectation on how many players I wanted to get out or anything. The first time it happened, I was like, ‘What the hell is going on’ kind of thing because it didn’t seem like much.”
  • On his reaction to opponents’ elbowing him: ‘Kinda sad, to be honest with you. I don’t like people not liking me. I like to think I’m a likable guy. And when they elbowed me, I’m like, ‘Aww, that’s our friendship out the door.’”
  • On the weather in OKC: “It’s real weird. The people are amazing, don’t get me wrong. People are amazing, really, really nice people. Awesome fans. Really committed, awesome place. But the weather here is ridiculous. The winter is like, I was sliding around everywhere, it’s really cold. Like thunderstorms, it’s so hot. I was like, ‘Oh, man’. I don’t want to say it sucks, but it’s borderline.”
  • Adams said he won’t play for New Zealand this summer. Sorry, New Zealand. He did say he’s going home soon, though.
  • I learned today that the coaching staff is trying to refine Roberson’s shot. “Just making it,” he said. “Keeping my off hand off the ball, as far as my thumb kind of gets in there a little bit. And just getting it more straight.”
  • To his credit, Roberson sounds willing to do what it takes to improve his shooting. “It’s going to help me in the long run. I’m willing to put in the time and trust them what they’re doing.”
  • Roberson on his ‘welcome-to-the-NBA moment’: “Shoot, I would say it was Toronto for me. When I started that game and I just couldn’t stop DeRozan from hitting some shots. SO I was like Man, welcome to the NBA. That was my moment.”
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti is scheduled to speak Thursday. Look forward to it.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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