Reserve center Cole Aldrich was the only player to arrive at the Thunder's new practice facility Thursday, which was the first day NBA players were allowed to use team facilities since the 149-day lockout began July 1.
Aldrich attended classes at the University of Kansas and has “been working out tirelessly every day” with teammate and fellow KU product Nick Collison “doing the same stuff that we had been doing during the season … It's good having a guy like that to work out with.”
Selected No. 11 in last year's draft, the 6-foot-11, 245-pound Aldrich saw limited action with the Thunder as a rookie, playing 141 minutes in 18 games. He excelled during his three assignments with the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Developmental League.
“Everybody individually has something in the back of their mind to improve on,” said Aldrich, who is expected to split time with Nazr Mohammed as a backup to starting center Kendrick Perkins this season. “I need to continue to work offensively, and defensively is always a key aspect of our team. Those things I talked about on the way out with the coaching staff (during exit interviews last May) are always essential.”
Aldrich said Thursday was the first time he has stepped inside the $14 million practice facility at 9600 N. Oklahoma Ave., just east of the Broadway Extension and Britton Road.
“This place is unreal,” Aldrich said during a midafternoon interview session with a handful of reporters. “It has everything you would ever want as an athlete. It's a blessing to have a place like this because this is a facility that makes you get better.”
The Thunder also will play their home games inside refurbished and renamed Chesapeake Energy Arena (formerly the Ford Center).
“That for us the biggest thing,” Aldrich said of playing in front of Thunder fans again. “The fans take the hardest hit (during a lockout) because they never have a say in it, but we are coming back and going to have a lot of fun again.”
Pending ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement, NBA teams are not permitted to reveal when players are expected to arrive. Players are allowed to talk with media if they choose, however.
Members of the Thunder coaching staff and front office personnel are not allowed to supervise or observe any workout sessions until training camp officially opens, which is scheduled for Dec. 9.
Players must sign a waiver before working out in the facility. Team athletic trainers and strength coaches can coordinate with players for weight training and conditioning workouts.
No one else can watch the workouts, except for public relations personnel who are there to facilitate media.