ESPN's lead broadcast team of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy held a conference call Tuesday afternoon and discussed how the Thunder can and should play its way to heightened expectations this season.
"I think the main thing is to understand from top to bottom in the organization that there's a reason why you won so many games (50) last year, and to follow that game plan and that strategy," Jackson said. "They competed. They played through their star player (Kevin Durant). Everybody showed up. They covered each other even through the limitations. They were extremely small at times, but they outworked folks and they were well-coached. You don't want to fall in love with what you did last year. You want to build on it and come back better."
Van Gundy said: "For me, it's about maintaining who you are as a team. For a young team last year to get it like they did defensively, you just don't usually see that. They got it defensively. Again, I go back to defense in this league is about coaching and your best players buying into that. And I think they had it covered from both ends. I think Scott Brooks is an outstanding teacher defensively and Kevin Durant and the best players are buying into that idea that defense is an important and integral part in winning in the NBA."
DURANT FOR MVP
Van Gundy likes Durant, but said he will have to beat out Miami's LeBron James for league MVP.
"He (Durant) firmly implanted himself last year in the MVP race, and he'll again be in the top three, but I think LeBron will end up winning it," Van Gundy said.
Jackson said it's too soon to proclaim Durant as the best player in the world.
"Kevin Durant is truly a superstar, and he separated himself from the stars in this league and put himself in the category of superstar," Jackson said. "He very well could win the MVP. I don't think it's time to say he's the best player in the world. I think when you talk about that, Kobe (Bryant), LeBron and Dwyane Wade are the top three players in basketball. But Kevin Durant certainly has put himself in the discussion with anybody else and certainly can win the MVP."
Thunder guard Royal Ivey is scheduled to visit the Thunder Youth Basketball Fall Camp from 9-9:45 a.m. on Friday at the Santa Fe Family Life Center. The three-day camp begins today. Forward/center Nick Collison and guard Morris Peterson are scheduled to visit special-needs children from 3-4 p.m. Friday at Special Care, an Oklahoma City daycare for children with mental and physical disabilities. The Thunder will donate art supplies. The Westmoore boys basketball team also will make a visit.