By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – The new look Oklahoma City Thunder tipped off training camp this week as they prepare for the 2018-19 season. But they did it without having star point guard Russell Westbrook taking part in any physical activities.
Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier this month and is expected to be sidelined throughout training camp. The NBA All-Star is scheduled to be re-evaluated in a few weeks.
When Thunder coach Billy Donovan was asked if Westbrook could have had the surgery earlier in the offseason so he could have been back on the floor sooner, he didn’t say whether that was an option or not.
“Well, obviously Russell made that decision. He’ll talk about that,” Donovan said. “But I think for him, he felt like it was the best thing to do at this point in time. We feel very, very fortunate that it was obviously nothing serious, and he’s working hard to get himself back, whenever that time may be.”
Despite that, Westbrook heads into the pre-season seemingly happy with the makeup of the team. The re-signing of Paul George has a lot to do with that.
“You know, me and Paul had a relationship before,” Westbrook said. “Being both LA natives, having a little relationship back then, and throughout the season, man, and before the season, just creating a relationship, knowing a little bit more about him, his family, his goals, what he wants to do, and it just clicked from there. We continued our relationship. We continued to stay in contact, obviously, and made it work.”
George was on top of most team’s wish list as a free agent. But he stunned many when he signed a long-term deal with Oklahoma City the first night of the free agency period.
“I think during the season, to start the season off, I was just open, very open about the situation, and in order for me to do that, I had to — for me to give everything I had and for me to be committed, I had to be open about coming here, otherwise I would have been not giving the team every bit of effort or — it just would have been something that I was holding back,” George said. “You know, I just told myself to start the process off, just give this team everything I have and see what happens. Obviously, I’ve developed some good relationships with Russ, with Steven, with Dre, with Coach Donovan, Sam Presti, Klay. I just developed these really good relationships here, almost feeling like I’ve been here for a while. And then just over the course of the whole season, it just steamrolled, just got better and better, and here I am.”
The Thunder also added guard Dennis Schroder in a trade that sent away Carmelo Anthony in a trade. The addition of Schroder deepens the Oklahoma City backcourt. He also answers some very specific needs the team has not had in the past couple of seasons.
But for the 24-year old Schroder, the chance to play alongside Westbrook and George is an opportunity he is looking forward to taking advantage of this season.
“I think, first off, to be in this organization, to see every day Russell Westbrook, Paul George practicing, see what they do off the court, on the court, I think was a big thing for me,” Schroder said. “You know, and the organization, I met everyone. I met the coaching staff, I met the front office, all the people, and it’s like a big family. I’m excited to be here and be a part of this organization.”
Blue & White Scrimmage
Oklahoma City fans can get their first look at the Thunder Sunday when they hold their annual Blue & White Intra-squad Scrimmage. In an unusual move, it will be held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena at 2 p.m.
In the past, the scrimmages have taken place at area high schools as a way to give back to the community.
In the past Yukon, Newcastle, Choctaw, Moore, Bixby, Bethany and Midwest City have all hosted the event. They all drew huge crowds and fanfare. No reason has been given for the move to the Chesapeake.
The Thunder kick off their slate of preseason games Wednesday when they host Detroit at 7 p.m.