Some much welcomed normalcy returned to the world this week. All across the NBA, local media crowded together to ask players and coaches questions about playing basketball. And in what has become the new normal, the gaggle of reporters were via virtual boxes online in lieu of locker rooms or press conferences.
Wednesday brought Billy Donovan and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thursday starred Steven Adams and Friday featured Danilo Gallinari.
I won’t bore you with a cut and paste retread of every question and answer that you’ve probably already seen on social media. Instead, I’ll focus on the one quote from each presser that jumped out to me and break down why I believe that particular soundbite is important to Thunder fans.
“All our players are competitive and want to play. They’ve been coming into the facility and been active individually. As of now, all 17 players have been in for practice. The opportunity to get back on the court is really important to them.” Billy Donovan
This seems like just a run of the mill, unexciting bit of information. Oh, all your players have been practicing and want to play? Ho hum.
But in the COVID world we now live in, having all 15 players on your roster plus your two substitutes both injury-free and coronavirus-free is a huge deal and a possibly enormous advantage. And the “want to” is just as noteworthy. Some healthy players across the league are turning down the opportunity to play at Disney. Complete respect and understanding for the various personal reasons, including health concerns, that led these players not attend. But hey, I’m not gonna complain that every guy on the OKC roster wishes to live the bubble life.
“I’ve played basketball pretty much the whole time. At the start, it was outside. But once things opened up, I was back in the gym.” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
I think some Thunder fans privately harbored fears that Shai would return from quarantine with an entire arsenal of sick Tik Tok dance moves but forgotten how to put the ball in the hoop.
Fear not, for the future cornerstone of the Thunder is a gym rat. It’s encouraging to hear that not only should Shai come back strong from hoops quarantine, but the work ethic to continue working on his game is robust enough that shutdown didn’t shut it down.
“Going in for a handshake now is very very sketchy. And I don’t want to be a dick.” Steven Adams
Steven’s quip about practicing basketball by boxing out cows on his farm was what made all the rounds on social media, and deservedly so. That’s an Adams instant classic.
But his very on the nose observation about balancing the fear of catching COVID by shaking someone’s hand with the fear of coming off as a jerk for not doing so was hilarious and relatable. Dare I say, it was Seinfeldesque.
“Never, not in my mind or my agent’s. The main reason is we’re fighting for something. To do it with my teammates, all the work we put in, I don’t want to see it go to waste.” Danilo Gallinari
This was Gallo’s answer when asked if he considered sitting out Orlando because playing posed the risk of jeopardizing his impending free agency. If Danilo were to get hurt, an injury could possibly cost him tens of millions on his new contract.
Gallinari endangering the security of one big guaranteed final payday proves both his belief in the Thunder to make some noise in the playoffs and his affection for his teammates.
As if the former Armani model’s Italian accent wasn’t already dreamy enough, he had to go and say the sexiest words possible.