Bargaining sessions between the NBA and the players' union are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in New York, but Thunder players already have a contingency plan if no progress is made concerning the league's lockout.
Pending significant progress in the new collective bargaining agreement, Thunder players will gather next week in Lexington, Ky., for their second voluntary minicamp session in the last three weeks.
Two weeks ago, 10 players on the Thunder roster met for four days in Austin, Texas, on the campus of the University of Texas. That camp was set up by reserve point guard Royal Ivey, who is on the verge of earning his bachelor's degree from UT this fall.
Next week's camp has been orchestrated by reserve center Nazr Mohammed, a former University of Kentucky player.
Prohibited from any contact whatsoever with any team or league officials, NBA players must organize workouts among themselves.
The Texas session lasted four days and included weight training and court work in the morning, followed by pickup games in the afternoon.
Those in attendance were UT products Kevin Durant and Ivey, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor, Cole Aldrich, Mohammed, rookie Reggie Jackson and even restricted free agent Daequan Cook, who is anticipated to re-sign with the Thunder when the new CBA is in place.
Not in attendance were Serge Ibaka (busy winning the European Championships with Spain), Thabo Sefolosha (who lives overseas), Byron Mullens (on his honeymoon at the time), Kendrick Perkins (family obligations) and Nate Robinson.
“We all knew we wanted to get together somewhere,” said Collison, who has split time this summer between Seattle and Lawrence, Kan., where he competes against past and present players from his alma mater of Kansas. “UT was great to us. They let us use all the facilities. They treated us great. They let use the gym, the weight room, the training room. So it worked out real well. We were really appreciative of all the hospitality.”
So there could be three five-man teams rotating for pickup games, other participants in Austin included former UT players Kris Clack, Reggie Freeman and Ira Clark. San Antonio's Tim Duncan played two days and former NBA player Michael Finley also played.
“The competition was really good. They were high-level games and everyone competed,” Collison said. “Who knows if it will make a huge difference in the season, but it was really good to see everybody. Everyone was getting kind of sick of working out individually, trying scrape together games wherever we were living.”
Mohammed tweeted they were "The best pickup games in America."
Bargaining sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday could bring significant progress to stalled negotiations.
“As long as this thing (lockout) lasts, we're going to try to stay in touch,” Collison said.
Despite the lockout, local interest in the Thunder has not waned. Collison and Aldrich both smiled when informed the Thunder had sold out of its full-season ticket allotment last week.
“That's impressive,” Aldrich said. “That shows the loyalty that our fans have. Talking with people, even here (at KU), there are a lot of fans who just want to get the season started on time.”
DURANT ON WESTBROOK
Rumors involving Westbrook linger as the season approaches. Some insist Westbrook will, or should, be traded, while other report rifts between Westbrook and Perkins.
Durant addressed these issues in an interview last week with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
“We butt heads just like any other players because we are both competitive, we both want to go at it, we both have ideas,” Durant said in a phone interview while on the movie set of his upcoming Warner Bros. film, “Switch.” “That's going to happen, but I support him 100 percent. Of course, I hated when people were saying the stuff they were saying, and he hated it as well. I didn't want it to get to his head. I hate when people try to creep into the group and try to break things up.
“I enjoy playing with Russell so much. I hope he understands that, and I'm sure he does. I'm looking forward to next season already. The last thing I've been worrying about is what people say about Russ, and I'm sure that's the last thing he's worrying about as well.
“I don't want any other point guard. He's perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We're all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That's what all good players on good teams do.”
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. Follow him on Twitter @RohdeOK.