Nick Gallo on the start of Thunder training camp: “Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson’s knees will be a constant storyline until they return to action, but Donovan did give an update on both players. The Thunder’s head man said that Westbrook couldn’t participate in practice but was very vocal and engaged in communicating with the team as they went through drills. Roberson was seen shooting after practice but didn’t participate in any of the contact work as he continues to rehab his knee. For now, newcomer Dennis Schroder is getting work in with first unit players like Steven Adams, developing a rhythm in the pick and roll.”
Erik Horne on the Thunder’s new play-by-play announcer: “On Monday, Chris Fisher was introduced as the new TV play-by-play voice for the Thunder and became a rarity. Only 30 of those jobs exist. The chance of landing one of them is so, so slim. Then again, so is the chance of walking again after a spinal cord injury. But Fisher defied the odds in that way, too. He was badly injured in a rollover car accident when he was in high school, damaging his spinal cord near the base of his neck and paralyzing him from the shoulders down. Many doctors said he’d never walk again, and in those early days, it looked as though he might need continuous care the rest of his life. “One of my MOs is not to be denied,” he said when talking about his Grand Canyon hike but hitting on a much broader truth. “I don’t want to feel limited.”
Dan Favale (B/R) on the Thunder’s biggest weakness as training camp begins: “Oklahoma City Thunder: Dearth of Off-Ball Shooters. Moving on from Carmelo Anthony will inject some clarity into the Thunder’s offensive structure. Everyone else can now work to fit around Paul George and, once he recovers from knee surgery, Russell Westbrook. The benefits may not be felt from the outset. Oklahoma City posted 110.1 points per 100 possessions when George and Westbrook played without Anthony compared to 113.7 with him. But the defensive advantages that come from sprinkling in other wing options will be clear right away, which would make similar offensive numbers or something close to them an upgrade. This presumes the Thunder have the spacing within their defensive talent to float a care-free scoring machine. They might not.”
Grant Hill believes the Thunder will have improved chemistry:
Matt Moore (The Action Network) on if the Thunder is better off with/without Carmelo Anthony: “OKC finished with 48 wins vs. an expected Pythagorean total of 52, which would have put them third in the West. If that happens, the Thunder likely beat a Pelicans team they matched up better with, avoid the Jazz and get the Warriors matchup they honestly wanted in Round 2. Now, they have lost an overall net negative in Carmelo Anthony. They didn’t gain much, but it does mean they’re not handcuffed to rotations with him, or forced to play certain players to accommodate him. Westbrook and George had good chemistry last season, and that only stands to improve. They will have a top-10 defense again, because that’s what happens with this Thunder team when Steven Adams is your center and Billy Donovan is your coach. The Thunder should have been better last season. They will advance to at least where they should be even if they don’t improve upon that performance, and that’s enough to get them solidly in 50-plus wins territory.”
Jared Dubin (FanSided) on Andre Roberson being a load-bearing piece for the Thunder: “Whether Roberson can achieve a similar impact moving forward is another question. A ruptured patellar tendon is a very serious injury, and we still don’t even know whether Roberson will be fully healthy for the beginning of the season. As of last week, he still hadn’t been cleared for contact just yet. For a player who derives almost all of his value through his lateral mobility, a knee injury that affects his movement skills is just about worst case scenario. Even a slight decline in his ability to guard would cause a massive hit to Roberson’s value as a player. At his best, he is basically a taller, longer version of Peak Tony Allen, but without the occasional streaks of ultra-aggressiveness on offense. To be clear, that archetype is a heck of a player.”
Good to see:
Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on the Thunder’s identity on both sides of the floor: “Tuesday was the first day of Thunder training camp and Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan liked what he got from his players. “The guys did a good job, came in and worked really hard,” he said. No complaints. “They did a really good job of being able to take in information, concentrate and focus and work,” Donovan added. So, all of that, but what about the things Donovan had underlined the day before at Thunder media day? Consistency and identity. “We’ve got to be willing to put the work in to create and have an identity that’s going to be something that can rely on that helps us be a more consistent team,” Donovan said.
Around the League: Steve Kerr doesn’t think this Warriors team is like the 1997-98 Bulls…. Jimmy Butler is rumored to be interested in playing for the Heat…. NBA trade value rankings…. 10 candidates for a breakout season…. Whatever happened to Bryant “Big Country” Reeves?…. How the NBA is preparing referees for legalized sports betting…. For better or worse, Tom Thibodeau isn’t budging.