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OKC Thunder Media Day Themes And Final Training Camp Roster – Forbes
The Oklahoma City Thunder begin training camp on Tuesday with just over three weeks until the start of the 2021-22 season. Prior to the season kicking off, they’ll carry 20 players through training camp and four preseason games.
At some point, the Thunder will have to make roster cuts, finalizing their 15-man roster heading into the season. They’ll also have the ability to carry both of their two-way players into the season as well.
With media day taking place on Monday, several key themes stuck out as players gave updates on their summer activities and what to expect in the upcoming season. Additionally, the training camp roster itself gave insight into what type of team Oklahoma City wants to be moving forward.
In the 24 hours leading up to media day, the Thunder made several moves to finalize their 20-man training camp roster.
They started by waiving Charlie Brown Jr. before signing Mamadi Diakite, Rob Edwards and DJ Wilson.
These were the final three additions to the team to round out the roster. They’ll each have opportunity to earn a roster spot over the next few weeks as they showcase their skills in practice and in preseason matchups.
It becomes more clear as the season approaches that the Thunder are committed to playing a positionless style of basketball. Over the past few drafts, Oklahoma City has used their first-round draft capital on players that are versatile enough to play multiple positions.
Most recently, this has included a 7-foot wing in Aleksej Pokusevski and a 6-foot-9 point guard in Josh Giddey.
Even Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault alluded to playing this way last season when talking about the positionless players on the OKC roster.
“Traditional positions don’t apply to a lot of the players on our team,” said Daigneault in January.
Just a month later, Daigneault reflected on the success of the Golden State Warriors with the amount of versatility they had on their roster.
On Monday at media day, Daigneault doubled down on the positionless style of play when talking about the benefits of having a roster full of players who are able to handle the ball.
“One of the things that is evident is the teams that are the most formidable in the NBA are the teams with multiple ball handlers,” said Daigneault.
As Oklahoma City continues to build their roster over the next few seasons around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, it’s fair to assume they’ll be targeting players who have a high basketball IQ and can play multiple positions. This will result in them being able to throw a variety of different lineups on the floor depending on who they’re matched up against.
When it comes to rebuilds, the Thunder are going to do it the right way. If there’s one thing the front office has emphasized over the past year, it’s that they’re going to be patient and take no shortcuts.
“We aren’t looking to short-term solutions to a long-term project,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said last week in a press conference.
Daigneault echoed this just a few days later at media day, saying the rebuild won’t be easy, but shortcuts will not be taken.
“There is no shortcut, it’s nothing going to be easy and we don’t want it to be easy,” said Daigneault at media day.
At the end of the day, Oklahoma City is looking for long-term, sustained success rather than just a short stint of being a playoff team. Especially in a small market, they’ve got to build through the draft, trades and player development.
“There’s only one thing to win in the NBA and it’s a championship,” said Presti during the offseason. “The longer you want to be good, the more patience it sometimes requires.”
The Thunder will be a championship contender again at some point in the near future, but they’re going to do it the right way.
Ja and Jaren, the North Star, and more Media Day takeaways – Grizzly Bear Blues
It’s good to be back.
After 18 months of virtual interviews, NBA Media Day returned to an in-person hybrid format. Ja Morant and De’Anthony Melton both expressed how happy they were to see the media, with an obvious pep in their energy in the press conference room.
Though extension talks with Jaren Jackson Jr. and the NBA’s league-wide effort for full vaccinations loomed large, everyone seemed jovial about the work that they all put in this summer and how it’ll all manifest this season.
The vibes were immaculate within this young Memphis Grizzlies squad.
What were some of the big takeaways from yesterday’s Media Day?
Desmond Bane is an awesome person
Before we get into more of the media day takeaways that reflect the on-court product, can we just take a moment to recognize how awesome of person Desmond Bane is?
The players that have opposing thoughts about the COVID-19 vaccine dominated yesterday’s media day discourse around the league. Though the league is at 90% vaccinated at the moment, some of the remarks yesterday showed the reality that we still have a long way to go — not just in the league, but countrywide.
While some people will tend to focus and stress on the negative remarks — and rightfully so— don’t overlook the pro-vaccine comments that Desmond Bane, among others, made in yesterday’s media festivities.
Desmond Bane had no problem getting vaccinated against Covid-19 since he grew up getting vaccines for other viruses.
“Whatever happens down the road, I’ll be fine knowing that I was one of those people that was at least trying to save the other people”
— Evan Barnes〽️ (@evan_b) September 27, 2021
Given the divisiveness of this topic, and Sunday’s quote-worthy Rolling Stones article on the NBA’s “anti-vaxxers,” it was refreshing to see comments like these from one of the NBA’s young players. Bane demonstrated great thoughtfulness and maturity when addressing his thoughts on the COVID-19 vaccine, a pressing topic and question across the league in yesterday’s annual media day.
Aside from that, Bane also mentioned that he got to use this lengthier offseason to not only explore the city, but to get involved in the community by hosting camps and events. He’s done that to get “intertwined” with the city, while introducing himself to the community. With a lot of this team being new-ish to the story, and with the limited outside events they’ve had due to health and safety protocols, it’s nice to see a young player like Bane be proactive in the community.
The Grizzlies got a good one with Desmond Bane.
All eyes on the Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. partnership
Unprompted, Zach Kleiman let the media know that Ja Morant is going to be an All-Star. He also referred to Jaren Jackson Jr. as a “franchise cornerstone.”
They also had a bunch of individual praise. Ziaire Williams referred to Ja as a “generational point guard.” Dillon Brooks told everyone that we’re going to see a lot more of the Jaren Jackson that we saw from year 2 with his shooting, fearlessness, and agility. Taylor Jenkins also has high expectations for both players, while indicating the importance of that duo in relation to the team’s success.
What really stuck out, at least to me, is how Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. worked out together and stayed in sync a lot this summer.
We got the idea that Ja and Jaren did some workouts together this season, as there were some highlights that circulated of them two playing at the same open run. However, as Ja Morant was “in the dark” and low-key about his work this offseason, this bit of information came as a pleasant surprise — given the limited social media activity.
The magnitude of their leaps this season will go a long way into determining the team’s success this year. The West is tough, per usual, and the Grizzlies will be looking to build on last year’s playoff run to achieve sustainable success towards the front office’s vision.
That vision is centered around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. It’s a good sign to see they’re on the same page as they enter a big 3rd year together.
Zach Kleiman is very aware of his team’s standing towards the “North Star”
Zach Kleiman has mentioned the objective of winning a championship many times during his Memphis tenure, and yesterday’s Media Day was no different.
He was excited about last season’s playoff push, and their performance in the postseason as well. For this season, he emphasized the importance of internal development — particularly with players like Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson, Desmond Bane, and Dillon Brooks.
At the same time, he wanted to stress that there is an urgency towards reaching his goal of bringing a championship here, as he didn’t want to place a cap on the team’s ceiling. There was one thing in particular that stood out in Kleiman’s availability yesterday:
Kleiman says they’ve got to find the right blend of being disciplined but aggressive when making moves to grow into that championship contender. Says they’ll continue to make moves when there are growth opportunities to bring in players to help them with their goal
— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 27, 2021
As many fans and analysts love trade speculation, especially when there’s an All-Star like Ben Simmons on the market at the moment, there’s always that question of the right time to strike. Kleiman was very transparent on that front — highlighting this level of urgency as well as the 3 potential picks in next year’s draft, the Warriors’ 2024 pick, all its own picks, and the clean books at the moment. He knows they’re in a good spot to strike whenever.
Now it’s out there. As these incoming picks turn into actual players, and their loaded depths turn into expiring contracts and exit rookie deals, the chatter of the big trade will only grow.
Knowing that Zach Kleiman and his front office have built towards this and are aware of the balance between discipline and aggressiveness, it’s a promising sign that a blockbuster sign is more of a when than if. That’s a great sign towards Kleiman’s “North Star” of building a title contender around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Good vibes around Ziaire Williams
We’ve heard the positive buzz from Zach Kleiman and Taylor Jenkins on Grizzlies’ top-10 pick Ziaire Williams in the introductory and post-draft press conference. In yesterday’s Media Day, we heard what his teammates thought of the rookie.
There’s optimism about him and his fit with this team.
Morant, Bane, Brandon Clarke, and De’Anthony Melton had great things to say about his two-way impact at his size, his shooting and scoring, and his ability to play in transition. They were also praising his willingness to learn and soak in as much information as possible.
It’s going to be a process with Williams, especially with his age and raw skillset. However, it was good to hear his teammates give him good reviews on his work ethic and his hunger to learn and get better.
- The Steven Adams experience is going to be fun. Steven Adams stole the show at media day. He was charming and hilarious — from talking about Shelby Farms trips with his dog, giving a thumbs-up of approval for the league being 90% vaccinated, to jokingly calling a beat writer a “bastard” for referring to him as the old guy. He also demonstrated a great level of thoughtfulness with his answers, especially when it comes to this season and being the veteran in the locker room. Lots of players spoke highly of “Steve-O” — as his teammates refer him to — and it leads me to think he’s going to become a fan favorite quite soon.
- Brandon Clarke is the best player he’s ever been. Brandon Clarke did not have a good close to the season last year. He was aware of that, and it ate at his confidence as well. After an offseason of working on his perimeter skills, and getting a lot of that work with Jaren Jackson Jr. as well, Clarke feels like he’s playing the best he ever has. That’s a very positive development towards a potential bounce-back season for him.
- Dillon Brooks looking to extend his creation. Many people aren’t thrilled with Dillon Brooks’ shot selection, primarily the amount of 2-pointers in his shot portfolio. However, he mentioned that he’s watched film on guys like Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, and Paul George on how to create from the 3-point line — as those 3 in particular experienced success in that regard in last postseason. It’s going to be interesting to see that unfold, but it could pay dividends for his evolution as 3-and-D wing with All-Defense potential.
These storylines will be cool to monitor, as they progress towards tangible evidence over the coming months. As Jaren Jackson Jr. said yesterday — “Next Gen is back!”
Stick with Grizzly Bear Blues for more Media Day and Training Camp coverage.
NBA preseason 2021-22: Toronto Raptors Media Day Open Thread – RaptorsHQ
The date seems to have snuck up on us, but somehow, it’s here already: It’s Toronto Raptors Media Day!
Of course, things are a bit different today. On the good news side, Raptors Media Day is back in Toronto, after a bizarro year in Tampa. On the less good side, we’re still in a pandemic, and everyone in the league is surely going to be facing questions today about the Rolling Stone report about NBA players and vaccinations that dropped over the weekend.
Hopefully, though, there’ll also be a chance to talk about hoops! And with this year’s Raptors team in a state of semi-transition, with a few new faces (and some old faces missing), there are plenty of basketball-related questions to be asked.
Bobby Webster and Nick Nurse are scheduled to speak to the media today, as are a few players including Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. We’ll follow along right here and post whatever videos and soundbites that the team makes available!
In the meantime though, be sure to check out our pre-preseason reading, including:
Check back for updates throughout the day!
10:30 a.m.: Bobby Webster speaks
Raptors GM Bobby Webster was the first member of the organization to speak on Media Day and he got the most important question of the day out of the way right off the bat: He said that the Raptors are one second dose away from being fully vaccinated. And they expect that final second dose to be administered before opening night.
I’m not gonna lie, I literally said “Oh, thank God” out loud here in my office.
A couple other tidbits from Webster:
- Unvaccinated players from other teams will be able to travel to Canada under the “national interest” exemption. They’ll have stricter guidelines than vaccinated players, though.
- Webster likes what he sees from Goran Dragic, in terms of being a mentor to the team’s younger players.
- Webster also thinks — no surprise here coming from the team’s GM! — that the Raptors will surprise a few people this year, and that if a couple players “pop,” they’ll be able to move up a spot in people’s minds.
- Finally, Webster says that OG Anunoby has a huge opportunity in front of him with Pascal Siakam out to start the year. Look for more thoughts on that from Sean Woodley later on!
One other key thing to come out just now: Jose Calderon is in the house!
11:00 a.m.: Nick Nurse at the podium
Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse stepped up to the mic after Webster, and he started off by expressing his excitement about the team’s length and versatility. Indeed, with almost every player on the roster about 6’8” with a long wingspan, this team is very much built from Nick Nurse’s ideal mold.
More from Nurse:
- He says it’s “really good” to be back in Toronto. You love to see it!
- The coach mentioned scoring might be a challenge, which, if you’re paying attention at home, is kind of a “no duh” statement. But he says he believes in “scoring by the system,”meaning it’ll be a team effort, and that he hopes the transition game will fuel the office.
- Nurse thinks Scottie Barnes will have a huge role. Aaaaaand, I’m already concerned about the expectations we’re putting on a very raw rookie. (At least they’re working on his jumper, according to Nurse!)
- Will there be zone defense? There will be zone defense!
took 11 minutes for Nurse to mention playing a bunch of zone with all the long dudes. about 9 minutes more than the over/under I had in mind.
— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) September 27, 2021
12:00 p.m.: The players speak!
Following 30-minute sessions from Webster and Nurse, several Raptors players had about 20 minutes to take questions from the press, starting with Fred VanVleet.
VanVleet, as one might expect, says his expectations are to win a championship, every year.
He also says he’s ready for his expanded role, and that his voice on the team has been steadily growing since his first year — but that it will still be a challenge for him, on-court, going from the two-point-guard look to being the number one guy. Indeed, it might be the biggest challenge the entire team faces.
And hey, speaking of that former number one point guard…
Nope, I’m still not ready for that.
What I am ready for: Fred saying “I know I’m one of the best defenders in the league,” regardless of what All-Defense voters think.
If you have the chance, I definitely encourage you to track down video of VanVleet’s press conference. He’s very considerate and deliberate in the way he speaks and what he speaks about. He’s a joy to watch, on and off the court.
Pascal Siakam took the podium after VanVleet, and he started out talking about his shoulder surgery — his first ever surgery! Everything is “moving in the right direction,” and he’s feeling healthy, though he hasn’t been cleared for team workouts yet, just individual work.
Siakam also spoke about his role and being the number one guy. Even though he had the max contract and the team was fully invested in him, it was hard for him to feel like the guy with Kyle here — not as a knock against Kyle Lowry, but just because he came in as a young guy and it was Kyle and DeMar DeRozan’s team, and it was hard for him to see himself in that role. Which totally makes sense! He also spoke about what that leadership looks like, from being vocal on the court to simply checking in with his teammates via text.
Pascal also answered a question in French which even after all these years still brings a huge smile to my face. I have no idea why! Just something about the international flavour it brings to the team’s interaction with media brings me joy.
Next up we got Gary Trent Jr., on the mic, and he opened by saying he appreciated the trust the organization showed in him by offering him his new contract, and the comfort he felt getting the deal done early.
Overall Trent seemed a bit reticent to answer questions — or maybe I just felt that way after hearing Fred and Pascal speak so freely and openly. But he seemed excited about Toronto — until he started talking about real estate, and our completely messed up bidding system. As someone who just bought a house, probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever experienced, let me just say, I feel you Gary!
Trent says he’s working on every aspect of his game and just trying to get better, knowing that he’s not a finished product. What more can you really ask for?
Finally, we had Goran Dragic join us! Goran showed up looking pretty buff, which is cool, and he echoed Webster’s comments about leadership and mentorship. He recalled Steve Nash being his mentor back in their Phoenix days, and hopes he can bring the same to the young players on the Raptors.
And he had lots of good things to say about Precious Achiuwa, saying that he’s already seen a lot of growth and the Achiuwa will bring a ton of energy to the team — and said people might be surprised by Aciuwa’s jumper.
Dragic also said giving Kyle Lowry his Heat #7 was no issue, as they’re good friends, and recalled Lowry hitting the game-tying buzzer beater in game 1 of their playoff meeting back in 2016. He praised Toronto fans and the atmosphere in the building, saying every time you play here it’s a long, long night.
Dragic confirms there was not a blood feud between him and Kyle when Kyle asked to wear #7 in Miami. Dragic is wearing #1 now, btw.
— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) September 27, 2021
Finally, Dragic said it’s a young team who’s gonna play hard and he’s looking forward to being a part of that — and that Scottie Barnes is already standing out as a player who works hard and loves to have fun.
Hopefully we’ll get to hear from Scottie himself later this week!
For now, that’s about a wrap on Media Day. If we get any more news bits we’ll update as we go, and you can also look out for a wrap up from Sean Woodley later on today.
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