Getting Better, Even on the Road

CHICAGO -- With some abnormal scheduling, the Thunder found itself with two off days between road games in Chicago and Cleveland. Viewing it not as a challenge, but an opportunity, the Thunder used its time on the road wisely in order to get better.

A practice on Wednesday at the Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago did the trick as the team gathered together before flying to Cleveland later in the afternoon. Despite not having all of the amenities and modalities that exist at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center back in Oklahoma City, the Thunder used its tough mental approach and laser-sharp focus to not just get in some work on the court, but to truly push one another to get better.

From team leaders like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to rookies Steven Adams and Andre Roberson, everyone improved on Wednesday because of the effort they put in. By maintaining the same levels of intensity and dedication to their craft on the road, the Thunder’s practice energy was consistent with what Head Coach Scott Brooks sees back in Oklahoma City.

“The consistency to me is easy, it comes with the effort,” Brooks said. “We always put effort into our practices. Our practice was great today. We did a lot of things that are going to continue to build all of our good habits on both ends of the floor, but our energy, spirit and competitiveness was at a high level today.”

“We honestly still bring the same intensity to practice,” Adams echoed. “Today we had a really good practice. We kind of stepped it up a little bit, which is what we do. We try to bring the same intensity no matter where we go.”

With just 15 games left in the regular season, there are limited opportunities to fit in practices over the next four weeks before the postseason starts. As a result, Brooks and his staff highly value the opportunity to work with their players on the floor outside of a game session or a shoot-around, where they are solely planning for a specific opponent. On Wednesday, the team was able to dig into the core principles that have been crucial to team success over the years, primarily in its defensive coverages and communication, along with execution on the offensive end.

“It’s all of the good habits that we felt were important in training camp,” Brooks said. “It’s just a continuation of what we need to do as a team. This late in the season you can’t go long, but you can go high intensity. They have to be quick hitters. Our drills today were right on. Our guys were energized and challenging each other. It was very competitive. “

“We try to keep it the same for the most part,” Roberson explained. “We come out here, have a good, hard practice and prep for our game plan for who we have. It’s a little different as far as the gym. You have to wait until a specific time to go to the gym, you can’t just pop in, but it’s good that we’re all in here together.”

If you happen to be in the Thunder’s hotel on the road, there’s a good chance you’ll see players sitting down with coaches in the lobby, watching film. Players, with the help of team trainers, often use the hotel gym to work out and lift weights, while the entire squad will often assemble in meeting rooms at the hotel in order to review film and set up the game plan for the upcoming game. By being both creative and flexible, Thunder players and coaches manage to find ways to learn and instruct even when conditions aren’t quite the same or as comfortable as they are at home.

“We go one-on-one with our coaches,” Roberson explained. “Everybody has their own specific coach they go to for their position. You get one-on-one film with them. There’s also teammate-to-teammate. You watch with a veteran like (Derek) Fisher or someone that has been in the game a long time. There are different ways you can go about it and its pretty fun.”

“When I’m on the plane, on the bus or driving back from practice to the hotel, we just watch video, talk and go over certain things,” Adams said. “I’m trying to pick up things fast, get better at them and critique little stuff that I can get better at and big stuff as well.”