If one were to look solely at total rebounds from last season, the conclusion might be that the Oklahoma City Thunder was an elite rebounding team. OKC ranked fifth in total rebounds at 43.7 per game and out-rebounded opponents by 2.4 boards per game.
But the 12.7 offensive rebounds the Thunder yielded on average, which ranked OKC second-to-last, is still a black eye.
That's why the first three days of camp have been spent focusing largely on rebounding.
“I think the last two years we lost our games because of rebounding,” said Russell Westbrook. “We got sent home because of rebounding. So that's a big key for us.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said his team must iron out its rebounding issues before becoming an elite defensive team.
“You have to be able to rebound in this league to have success,” Brooks said. “Just look at our rebounding numbers. Anytime we out-rebounded a team our record was really, really good. But we do so many things well defensively that I think that's the one area that we really have to get better at.
“We're in the middle of the pack defensively, and we take pride on the defensive end of the floor. And rebounding the basketball hasn't been a great strength of ours the last two years.”
The Thunder was 31-5 last year when out-rebounding opponents and 15-12 when getting out-rebounded. OKC was 1-2 when it tied its opponents in rebounding.
Asked how the team is improving the rebounding, Westbrook replied with a simple strategy.
“Just being tougher,” he said. “Just taking it upon yourself to stop your guy from getting a rebound and going to get the ball.”
ATTITUDE REFLECTS LEADERSHIP
Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Nick Collison all have talked about taking on more of a leadership role this season. Each has talked about striving to be more vocal when needed but also leading by example.