By Randy Renner
By the time the regular season starts at the end of October the Oklahoma City Thunder should look like a much different team from years past.
A new offense is being installed and so is a new defense.
"There's a lot of new stuff," veteran Thunder forward Nick Collison told a playoff worthy sized crowd of reporters. "That's different for us, the last few years we've just jumped right into training camp and we've all known what were were running."
Former head coach Scott Brooks (and the players too) mostly liked that familiarity. They could work on fine tuning things rather than starting over.
Now days the Thunder are all about embracing change.
"It's good to have some new stuff," Collison said. "Guys came in with an open mind, listened and were eager to learn, so it was a good first practice."
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, back at a full practice and pain free for the first time in almost a year, said things went well.
"I felt great," KD assured the group. "Everybody was focused and locked in on what coach wants us to do so it was a good start but we gotta build on it."
For a while Durant, Collison and their teammates will spend a lot of time learning new plays, new terminology, a whole new system.
"That stuff was new for us, different system, different coaches but we've got a veteran group of guys that are smart about the game and know how to catch things on the fly," Durant pointed out, "so it was cool."
The changes have been kept under wraps until now. At Monday's media day players said they really wouldn't know for sure how drastically different (or not) things would be and and coach Billy Donovan has been vague when he's spoken to reporters.
Today things started to become a bit more clear.
"Certainly a lot of teaching to do," Donovan said. "Just trying to get a defensive system in, a philosophy in some of those things. Trying to break down and teach but I thought we got a lot in especially considering it was the first day."
Most of the first of two scheduled practices on this first day of camp was spent on the defensive end.
"I don't think we're any different from any other team you're trying to establish a defensive identity of how you wanna play," Donovan said. "So much of the game is played in the pick-and-roll and how you're defending that and what your coverages are and how you're defending becomes very, very important."
The Thunder had been an elite defensive team for the last few seasons and they were for a while last season too. Injuries and constant lineup shuffling because of them led to lapses on that end of the floor after the All-Star break.
The coaching change provided the perfect opportunity to get some new ideas flowing.
"As a coaching staff we were trying to look at areas where we can help and I think when you watch film things reveal themselves," Donovan said. He's watched film of every game the Thunder have played over the last two seasons and he's broken everything down with the help of his assistant coaches and from the Thunder's analytic experts.
"I think in trying to come up with a system you have to look at lot of those numbers," Donovan admitted, "and lineups and film and those things to make those kinds of assessments and then it has to matchup philosophically with how we as a staff see the game."
With the entire summer to chart film, plot numbers and brainstorm Donovan and his staff have come up with what they believe will work best with the Thunder roster much of it is different from what most of the guys are used to seeing.
"It's new to all of us the stuff we're trying to do," said Collison. "It's not totally different or crazy, a lot of the principles are the same but it is a new way of doing a lot of things. So we have a lot of work to do."
And Collison says in this case, change seems to be good. He and the players are all in and ready to see how well the new ideas work.
"I think there's a lot of energy, a lot of anticipation. When things are new you feel a little more energy with the group. There's a lot to learn so I think it's important we all come in with an open mind and be ready to go."