Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Training Camp is Underway

The first practice is in the books for the Seattle SuperSonics, and Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo was pleased given the challenge of bringing together a new coaching staff and several new players.

"When you have new players, new coaches, it's very difficult for them because you'd like to just go in practice and say, 'Alright, 3-on-2 fast-break drill' or say something else," said Carlesimo. "Not that anybody's that different, but the terminology is different and they're playing with different guys. It's very hard to make them stop and start as much as we're making them do. Given that, I thought they did a really good job. They worked hard, they bought into what we were trying to do and their effort and enthusiasm were very good."

During the last half-hour of practice, which was open to the media, the Sonics worked on the fast break with Assistant Coach Paul Westhead taking a lead teaching role. Thereafter, they worked on transition defense by going 5-on-5 with both teams starting at about the opposite free-throw line and then playing through two possessions.

One interesting thing I noted from Carlesimo was his stopping at one point to ask a player why he had made the particular pass he did during this drill - not as a criticism, but just to make him think before being in the same situation again. I can't recall seeing the Socratic Method applied during a drill quite like that before.

While we were watching, the Sonics were divided into three squads:

White - Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Mickaƫl Gelabale, Kurt Thomas, Johan Petro
Green - Luke Ridnour, Jermaine Jackson, Wally Szczerbiak, Chris Wilcox, Robert Swift
Red - Delonte West, Damien Wilkins, Jeff Green, Nick Collison, Mouhamed Sene

Carlesimo cautioned against reading too much into those groupings, saying, "Each team had five guys on it. We had a couple small guys, a couple big guys. One of the teams was red, one of the teams was white, one of the teams was green. If you go anything beyond that, you would be extrapolating."

Still, it was notable that Kevin Durant was playing shooting guard for his group.

"Coach had me at the two - coming off the screen, checking two guards," Durant said. "I think that's what he wants me to do."

Carlesimo discussed Delonte West, another versatile player with the ability to play multiple positions - in West's case, either guard spot. Carlesimo will likely begin by looking at West as a point guard, where he would be part of a competition for minutes with Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson.

"He can help us solve the logjam by perhaps playing some minutes at two," noted Carlesimo. "Having said that, if he's our best one, then he's going to play a lot of minutes at one. We need to evaluate him at two different positions."

Today is a double day for the Sonics. Evening practices are closed to the media. Two-a-days will continue through the week.

"You're allowed to do it for six days," Carlesimo said. "We will probably do four of the six. I'm counting Saturday, that open practice [6 p.m. at SPU's Royal Brougham Pavilion], as a double day because we will practice in the morning. We'll go two today, we'll go two tomorrow. We'll go one on whatever the third day is - Thursday. We'll go two Friday and two Saturday, unless we get a lot of injuries or something like that. That would be more than normal. In the future, we won't do that many, but we have to."

NBA teams are only allowed to have one practice with contact per day - universally the morning session. The second practice is limited to drill work, which will help Carlesimo and the coaching staff as they install their offense and defense over the next week.

For more, check out some post-practice audio from Carlesimo and Durant.