A day after the hoopla of Media Day, the 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder hit the floor on Tuesday morning for the official beginning of training camp. With the first preseason game just a week away (October 3 vs Houston in Tulsa), the team has a condensed camp to smooth out many newly-acquired rough edges.
Below are some notes from day one.
(1) Carmelo Anthony will start at Power Forward
It’s been assumed Carmelo Anthony would start at power forward when the season tips off on October 19, but coach Billy Donovan confirmed the notion on Tuesday. Speaking with reporters after practice, the Thunder’s head man said, “He’s going to start the power forward spot for us. That’s what he’s going to do.”
So that’s settled.
Anthony played 31 percent of his minutes at power forward last season in New York, but has spent the majority of his 14-year career at the small forward position. That being said, he’s more than willing to man the four-spot, saying:
“I’ve been playing the 4 almost all my career. Even in Denver, we was one of those teams with George Karl, kinda started going playing that small ball, putting me at the 4, picking up the pace. We kind of started that.”
This, combined with Dwyane Wade’s decision to join LeBron James in Cleveland, all but locks in the Westbrook – Roberson – George – Anthony – Adams starting lineup. D-Wade-to-OKC was a long shot to begin with, but the Thunder starters should have no shortage of firepower with Melo’s ability to spread the floor.
(2) Injury Report
As expected, Russell Westbrook was not with his teammates when they hit the floor on Tuesday morning. A week after receiving a PRP injection in his right knee, he’s expected to be eased into the mix over the coming days. He did, however, spend time after practice getting up jumpers with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks.
Furthermore, Patrick Patterson was absent from activities and is considered day-to-day as he recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Alex Abrines was a full participant after recently nursing a bone bruise in his left knee.
(3) The Love Fest Continues
One of the most remarkable aspects of yesterday’s Media Day was the excitement emanating from the new arrivals. That trend continued today at training camp.
Speaking with reporters after practice, Carmelo Anthony had this to say about his new surroundings:
“Today is kind of a new beginning for me — where I can focus on just basketball. That’s it. I can leave out of here, go home, and relax. I can stay in the gym all day if I want. I think that’s the beauty of it. Not being pulled this way, or being pulled that way… Right now my focus is just completely on basketball.”
Outside of the mental clarity that comes with leaving the pressures of NYC for Oklahoma, the best part of the day came when Melo was asked about Steven Adams.
“Steven Adams is a monster, man. He’s a monster like somebody from Game of Thrones or something. I love him.”
Adams later replied, “That’s a bit rude.”
It’s going to take some time for the Thunder to mesh on the court, particularly with Westbrook and Patterson yet to join the action, but the team appears to be in a good place from a chemistry perspective. With D-Wade off the table, one would assume the guys in the locker room now will be the group that begins the regular season together. Things are off to a great start.
Thunder training camp continues tomorrow in Oklahoma City, and again — the first preseason tilt is a week from tonight in Tulsa against the Houston Rockets. Tickets are available here.