By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Just how different will this season’s Thunder squad be than last season’s version? Several hundred fans will get a quick first look at the possibilities tonight during the annual Blue/White scrimmage.
The “game” will be held at Oklahoma City’s John Marshall High School. Tickets are being distributed through the school and are not available to the general public.
Typically in these games the squad is divided up as equally as possible, core players will be out there for a little bit, not much, and most of the contest is between younger players on the Thunder roster and guys trying to make the team or at least secure a spot on the OKC Blue.
“I think there will be some things that will probably be encouraging and some things that will be sloppy and we will need to work on,” head coach Billy Donovan said after Tuesday morning’s practice session.
How Donovan will handle things tonight is still a bit of a mystery since there are so many new faces on the team.
“I’m not worried about the rotation part of it now,” Donovan said Monday and echoed again today. “We’re gonna try to mix around different teams and have guys play with different players. Right now we’re just, more than anything, trying to get guys to understand how we’d like to play.”
That can be a problem when you have as much turnover as the Thunder have had over the summer. Of the 20 players on the camp roster nine are new to the organization and Semaj Christon, who has been in Thunder camp before and has played with the Blue, might as well be added to that list since he was playing Italy last season and is leaning Donovan’s system along with the other new guys.
And even Thunder veterans are having to get used to playing without Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Dion Waiters so like GM Sam Presti said during an interview last week, “this will be a season of discovery,” and it all begins with training camp.
“I think offensively you're going to have to go through some change,” Donovan said. “I don't think that necessarily the philosophy changes at all. I'm still a big believer in ball movement and player movement and attacking the paint and extra passing and those things. But you got to try to create those situations with the personnel you have.”
Training camp, especially this camp for the Thunder, is going to be about a lot of experimentation with matchups and combinations. Some of that will be on display at JMHS this evening.
“Like we could take potentially a starting lineup that we may say ‘okay let’s see how these guys look together,’ or maybe let’s look at playing with three guards out there,” Donovan said.
These first few days of camp have mostly been about the basics. Two practices Saturday and two more on Sunday focused mostly on defense with some offensive sets, like side-out-of-bounds plays and under-the-basket plays thrown in.
Monday some more was added to the mix and the team was able to scrimmage a little 5-on-5.
“They’ve done a really, really good job,” Donovan said of his players, “The attention to detail the way they’re continually trying to pick up new ideas. I think it’s been three really good days to start with.”
One of the players who may get an extended look tonight is forward Josh Huestis. He put together a couple of impressive games late last season and in the playoffs when he shot 62.5 percent on threes, granted it was a very small sample size (5-for-8) but still when a team is looking for shooting you don’t want to ignore someone who’s right in front of you.
Adding even more credence to that was Enes Kanter when he was asked who has stood out to him early in camp.
“You know one guy who’s really impressed me is Josh. He worked really hard this summer and now he’s just really going at it. He’s been really good.”
Rookie Domantas Sabonis has also been outstanding so far and has picked up things very quickly.
For the fans watching the scrimmage it’s a sure bet they’ll see some combinations they’re not used to seeing but ones that could become regular features of the new-look Thunder.