NBA AM: Thunder Plan Offseason Workouts
The Oklahoma City Thunder won’t let the lockout get in the way of their offseason training. While the players aren’t allowed to communicate with management, they are allowed to contact one another and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing in recent weeks.
“Guys have called each other to figure out where we can meet and hang out,” Nate Robinson told HOOPSWORLD. “We want to get some good workouts in, hopefully soon. We’ll probably have guys come in around late August or early September to get it going and start playing.”
Several Thunder players including Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kendrick Perkins and Eric Maynor recently worked out together in Houston. The group was helping Perkins host his annual basketball camp, but also found time for some training. The team hopes to meet as a whole in the coming weeks for a more extensive minicamp.
Other teams, such as the New York Knicks, are also planning offseason workouts to stay sharp. Training camps are currently set to begin during the first week of October, but sources close to the labor talks don’t believe a new collective bargaining agreement will be ratified in time to start the season on schedule.
That’s what makes these unofficial team workouts even more important. The camp atmosphere makes sure that everyone is on the same page and builds chemistry. During the NFL lockout, many teams organized similar workouts at training sites around the country.
Many NBA players have busy schedules and off-court commitments so it may be difficult for some teams to organize minicamps. However, that hasn’t been an issue for Oklahoma City. Their tight-knit group loves to work out and can’t wait to get back out on the court.
“We know that everyone is going to come back ready,” Robinson said. “We have so many gym rats on this team, guys that just love the game of basketball. That’s something that you have to cherish. A lot of guys do it for the money, but these guys do it for the love of the game.”
Durant has proven that to be true this offseason as he has toured the country and played in a number of different summer leagues. Last season’s scoring leader has dominated on both coasts and everywhere in between. If you set up a basketball court in your backyard, Durant may show up.
“K.D. is playing everywhere,” Robinson said. “He had 66 points at Rucker Park the other day and before that, he played in the Drew League. He’s playing in all of these summer leagues and it just shows that he loves basketball. He does a great job because he works extremely hard. He’s trying to be the best and it shows. It’s just great to see somebody like that going around and playing in these leagues. He carries it over to the NBA and his team as well.”
If all goes as planned, Durant will be able to carry his summer success over to his team sooner rather than later.
James Working With Olajuwon: Dwight Howard made national headlines last offseason when he traveled to Houston and worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon for one week. The pairing made a lot of sense because Howard has been trying to expand his offensive arsenal in recent years and Olajuwon enjoys working with today’s NBA stars.
Now, Olajuwon can add another big name to his coaching résumé. LeBron James is determined to improve his low-post scoring this summer and has turned to Olajuwon for help.
“I look at what he was able to do throughout his career,” James told The Associated Press. “Unbelievable talent. Multiple champion. Just to see how he was able to dominate in the low post, for me as an individual, I just try to look at some of the things I feel I need to get better at and hit home at it. Our team becomes better if I continue to get better and that’s what it’s about.”
“Right now I’ve just been focusing on being a better player, working on my game every single day,” James continued. “Like I said, the Dallas Mavericks were a great team and they deserved to win that championship. I’ll just use that as motivation coming into this season.”
Last year, there were stretches where the Miami HEAT would go with a smaller lineup, which featured James at power forward and Chris Bosh at center. James’ athleticism allowed him to do well at the four, but these sessions with Olajuwon will help improve his fundamentals and post moves.
James isn’t the first perimeter player to work out with Olajuwon. Two years ago, Kobe Bryant reached out to the legendary big man and was able to pick his brain during a two-hour training session. Olajuwon taught Bryant everything he could during their brief meeting, and managed to cover ball fakes, jab steps, head fakes and spin moves.
Howard’s experiences with Olajuwon were a little bit different. While the two spent time working on low-post moves, they also spent a lot of time focusing on the mental aspects of the game. The Hall of Famer wanted to improve Howard’s confidence and urged him to dominate games from start to finish. Many of the things that Olajuwon went over weren’t new to Howard, but it took these sessions for the Orlando Magic center to be comfortable enough to use the moves in games.
Rather than go overseas, James has made it clear that he’ll continue to focus on the upcoming NBA season and try to add new elements to his game. While he’ll travel to China this week for a nine-day promotional tour, he should be able to put Olajuwon’s lessons to use when he returns.
In late August, James is expected to play in a number of pro-am leagues, starting at the Melo Center in Baltimore. Don’t be surprised if he shows off his new Dream Shake.
Adidas Nations Attracts NBA Stars: The Adidas Nations tournament attracted more than just the top high school players in the world to Los Angeles last week. A number of NBA stars were also in attendance for the AAU tournament including Derrick Rose, John Wall, Josh Smith, Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon.
Rose and Wall were sitting next to University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari, which is never a bad thing for recruiting. The two point guards are very accessible and have close relationships with a number of the top recruits who played in the tournament.
Smith, Holiday and Gordon were volunteering as tutors to the young players. The three stars spoke to the players and even suited up at times during practices. Three former NBA players with coaching experience – Mike Dunleavy, Alex English and Detlef Schrempf –were also advising the prospects.
There were also some future draft prospects in the building. Eight top college players served as counselors during the showcase including Will Barton, Tu Holloway, Perry Jones, C.J. Leslie, Reeves Nelson, Mason Plumlee, Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger.
The champion of the tournament was crowned last night, with USA 2012 Blue beating USA 2013 Red in a thrilling 114-107 game. The winning team included top recruits Andre Drummond, Rodney Purvis, Cameron Ridley and Amile Jefferson. Shabazz Muhammad and Isaiah Austin were also on the roster, but sat out the championship game with injuries sustained during the week. Jefferson took home MVP honors after contributing 25 points and 10 rebounds in the final game. Teams from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America also participated in the showcase.
NBA Chats: There are two chats on today’s schedule. HOOPSWORLD’s senior writer Eric Pincus kicks things off at 4 p.m. ET. Then, Lang Greene will hold his chat at 8 p.m. ET. The chats fill up fast so getting in early always helps your odds. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: Upcoming HOOPSWORLD Chats.