'Very fine line': How Thunder is approaching practices leading up to NBA restart
Billy Donovan didn’t arrive at Disney World expecting his team to pass with the same precision or defend with the same cohesion as it did in early March. Not even the confines of the Magic Kingdom could bestow such powers after a four-month layoff.
That’s why Donovan struck an urgent tone after a recent practice.
“We cannot waste days,” the Thunder coach said.
So far, no days have been wasted. The Thunder practiced Friday for the first time in four months. On Monday night, the team completed its fourth practice in four days. Friday was “pretty good intensity,” Saturday was “really, really high intensity,” Sunday was a non-contact practice and the energy was back up again Monday, according to Donovan.
With the season restart less than three weeks away, there’s no playbook for how hard coaches, trainers or medical staff should push players after the time off. Hard enough to be physically ready to play Aug. 1, but not to the point where it’s too much too soon.
“It’s a very fine line, and this is where the medical team comes in,” Donovan said. “The job that they do, the attention to detail, the focus that they have is incredible. Really it’s a collaborative effort of all of us.”
The Thunder has marks it aims to reach after each practice — not only in reviewing offensive sets and defensive schemes, but also in achieving physical fitness goals.
"You just don’t want to sit there and try to preserve guys,” Donovan said, “and just try to get to the first game in August … You also don’t want to go to the other extreme where you’re doing too much where guys are beat up or banged up.”
- Related to this story
- Article: OKC Thunder: Dennis Schröder plans to leave bubble for birth of child
- Article: OKC Thunder: One week in the bubble, very little drama
- Article: Opinion: Thunder guard Andre Roberson's return is once again a possibility. If it happens, it will be unprecedented.
- Article: 'He's like a big kid': Thunder rookie Darius Bazley enjoying life in NBA bubble
- Article: OKC Thunder: Back to practice, Andre Roberson update and shooting more 3-pointers?
- Article: Thunder's schedule rank similar to what it was in March
- Article: 'Today is a sad day': Thunder guard Chris Paul mourns deaths of John Lewis, C.T. Vivian
- Article: OKC Thunder: Nerlens Noel tweaks ankle, Darius Bazley sees time at center
- Article: 'It’s gonna be an adjustment': Thunder's Abdel Nader has experience playing in empty arenas
- Article: OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from scrimmage against Celtics
- Article: OKC Thunder's Andre Roberson returns after 909-day absence to standing ovation, 'lot of emotions'
- Article: Tramel: Can OKC Thunder in the NBA bubble mimic success of Joe Gibbs' Washington teams?
- Article: OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from 76ers scrimmage
- Article: Carlson: Why OKC Thunder's Andre Roberson is the feel-good story we need right now
- Article: OKC Thunder vs. Trail Blazers scrimmage: Tip-off time and TV info
- Article: OKC Thunder: MLB coronavirus outbreak leaves questions for next NBA season
- Article: How long will it take for NBA teams to get in shape with the season restart looming?
- Article: OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from Trail Blazers scrimmage
- Article: COVID-19 has NBA wondering about long-term heart, lung problems for players
- Article: NBA commissioner Adam Silver 'anxious' but confident on eve of restart
- Article: No positive COVID-19 tests among NBA players for second consecutive week
- Article: Carlson: OKC Thunder and the NBA restart — 22 things you need to know
- Article: Much to consider when factoring in NBA bubble results
- Article: OKC Thunder: Mike Muscala to make donation for every team 3-pointer
- Article: Will the OKC Thunder's bench be a strength in NBA bubble?
- Article: Tramel: With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on superstar track, OKC Thunder should avoid total teardown
- Article: 'Helluva coincidence': OKC Thunder's season resumes just as it stopped — against the Utah Jazz
- Article: OKC Thunder vs. Utah Jazz: Tip-off time, how to watch, odds
- Article: OKC Thunder: Roster recap for NBA season restart
- Article: Quin Snyder reflects on suspended Thunder-Jazz game
- Article: Oklahoma lawmaker threatens OKC Thunder with tax penalties if players kneel during national anthem
- Article: OKC Thunder, Utah Jazz take knee during national anthem
- Article: OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from win against Jazz
- Article: Tramel: Attacking Rudy Gobert proved quite profitable for OKC Thunder
- Article: 'One game down, seven to go': OKC Thunder surges past Utah Jazz in NBA season restart
- Video: Thunder Update: Team Arrives in Orlando
Every team is vying for a competitive advantage inside the NBA’s bubble, including when and how much to practice. The Nuggets did not practice Friday or Monday. The Clippers, Suns and Wizards were off Sunday.
“Each team might employ different tools or different types of assessments to monitor their athletes and to give them an edge, said Bryce Daub, director of strength and performance for OU men’s basketball.
Daub interned with the Seattle SuperSonics, and he spent the 2010-11 season as an athletic performance coach with the Thunder. Bryce’s dad, Dwight Daub, is the Thunder’s former director of athletic performance.
“I don't think it's reasonable to cram everything into a shortened calendar, because that's when you have issues,” Bryce Daub said. “You hope for minimal decrement in physical abilities and performance, but I also don't think the driver is, ‘We have to get to a certain point.’ I think the driver is more prescribing exactly what the athlete's gonna need in the here and now, and we'll do the best that we can to prepare them.”
Daub said the key element to a safe and successful return is understanding how each player spent their four months away from competitive basketball. Once that information is gathered, a training regiment can be assigned.
Some Thunder players stayed in Oklahoma City and worked out at the team practice facility. Others flew home and trained on their own. Not every player had the same access to weight rooms or practice courts during the layoff.
“Once you get into training, I think there's going to be a potential for increased risk, without a doubt,” Daub said. “Risk of injury, risk of something being too much. It's gonna be imperative to push the envelope, but understand where those boundaries are.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander spent the break in his hometown of Toronto. The Thunder guard trained two hours a day, six days a week from late March to mid-June.
The 22-year-old is averaging a team-high 35.1 minutes per game.
Gilgeous-Alexander walked off a ballroom practice court Sunday and acknowledged there’s still rust to be removed from a Thunder team that shined before the stoppage, winning eight of its last 10 games.
But there’s no formula for how many practices or film sessions it will take to return to that level.
“We’ll get there,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, “when it’s time to throw the ball up.”