Donovan Working To Get "Everybody On The Same Page"

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan talks to reporters after practice at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan talks to reporters after practice at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center.

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Of all the years to have a short training camp and an abbreviated preseason, the NBA had to pick this one.

It's actually something players have been wanting for a while and some coaches too but THIS year for THIS team, a few more days of practice and a couple more preseason games just might have come in handy.

The Thunder have six players who weren't on the main roster last season, two of them will be starters this season and two others will likely play big minutes.

After Wednesday's practice head coach Billy Donovan went through a long list of what he's trying to get across to the new guys about the Thunder's defensive sets and schemes.

"There's so many things you have to guard and handle, from screening actions to pick and rolls to spacing to teams playing small to switching to showing there's just a lot of different things," Donovan told reporters.

In the first two days of camp Donovan and his coaches have put in the "foundations of how we wanna play," and are branching out from there into a tangled web details.

"Pick and roll coverages change on personnel, screening actions change on personnel, but you want to have clarity on what you're doing and then have the adjustments and the changes be based on scouting relative to personnel."

To get all that to work the way it's supposed to, players have to be talkative, letting teammates know what might be coming their way or if someone needs help as a pick and roll develops.

"From day one you want those guys talking and communicating and they've done a really good job with that," Donovan said.

"Carmelo's a good talker, Paul's a good talker, Russ is the same way and even Steven. He's been very vocal, very helpful defensively and has done a really, really good job and so has Andre. But regardless of who's out there you have to have five guys who are communicating."

Paul George has liked what he's seen so far with his new learning experience.

"The first two days have been really good man," he said. "We've been paired up with multiple different groups and we're growing. I think the best thing about what we're starting with is that we're growing every single day."

And George has been front and center in all of it, along with Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. Each veteran taking a piece of the team leadership role.

"I think at this point in my career, the battles I've had in post-season, I'm here to help with shouldering this team with Russ and with Melo."

And Donovan appreciates that kind of attitude from his superstars, stepping in with advice and help for younger guys on the team.

We're fortunate here that we have really, really good, quality veteran guys," Donovan said. "What's really impressive to me is the time Raymond Felton has spent with the young guys. Or the fact that Carmelo's on a basket with Paul George and working with Jerami Grant. I think the older guys remember what it was like to be a younger player and what kind of things were helpful to their growth."

Those kinds of attitudes are even more important with this season of transition for the Thunder coming at a time when time is short.

Randy RennerComment