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.
“There's no more veterans now,” said Westbrook, alluding to the departures of Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey. “We've become the guys that's been here the longest. We set the bar on how things are set around here, how things are done around here. And that's what we want everybody to follow.”
WESTBROOK TO SIGN SNEAKER DEAL SOON
Westbrook wore a pair of Jordan shoes in practice Thursday, which only added to the speculation of which sneaker company he will endorse after his contract with Nike expired.
Oklahoma City's star guard also wore a pair of Thunder-colored Jordans to the team's media day Monday. Miami guard Dwyane Wade recently left the Jordan Brand, which could create room for Westbrook to step in as one of the line's signature athletes. Westbrook wearing the shoes this week could simply be a fashion statement or a sign of where he's headed.
Westbrook wouldn't say Thursday, but he did confirm that he is no longer with Nike and put to rest rumors that he's endorsing Adidas. Westbrook did say that he expects to have a new shoe deal in place before the start of the regular season.
DURANT APPEARANCE FRIDAY
Durant is scheduled to appear at Game Stop at Penn Square Mall from 7 to 7:45 p.m. Friday. He'll be signing copies of NBA 2K13, the cover of which he appears on alongside Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose. Only copies of the game that are purchased at Game Stop will be signed, and proof of purchase is required at signing. Only one autograph will be allowed per customer.
To gain entrance into the autograph session, fans must have a ticket. Only 100 tickets will be given out starting at 10 a.m. at the mall entrance near Catina Laredo. The line will begin forming at 7:30 a.m.
Ticket holders will be allowed to line up for the 7 p.m. autograph session at 6 p.m. A ticket, however, is not a guarantee for an autograph.