From Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix:
Durant told SI he planned on getting Thunder players together, likely in either Florida or Texas, for informal workouts in September.
That makes Durant the latest in a series of players including Zach Randolph, Andray Blatche organizing team workouts for their guys during the lockout. (Note: How often do you read those three guys in a sentence together on the same subject? “One of these things is not like the other” comes to mind.) But what, if anything, does this mean? Is there any relevance to organizing a team workout during the labor stoppage?
The answer: yes and no. Hold on, I’ll let you recover from that incredibly firm opinion I just laid on you.
Players getting together to hold practices can do a lot of good. First and foremost, it means less time for the players to remember how to play with one another and how to execute the plays once training camp actually starts. Anything to keep those things familiar will help, especially with the younger teams. The coaching won’t be adequate, of course, and specifically, the training could get complicated. For example, if you’re trying to figure out whether your team wants you to gain or lose weight, not being able to talk to your trainer creates a problem. A guy goes in for workouts, and adds five, ten pounds of muscle, only to find out, whoops, they wanted you to focus on losing weight. Furthermore, say Durant’s running point on a practice, and instructs the wrong things for some of the younger Thunder. That’s work that will have to get undone by Scott Brooks in the fall/winter/spring/oh my God it could be next fall. Now, it’s not likely that the Thunder will get into anything that serious. But little things are what coaches focus on a lot, and that has to be a slight concern.
The other biggest reason for these players to host these? It keeps them out of trouble. Look no further than Kendrick Perkins’ activities this weekend for reasons to keep your guys busy running sprints instead of ordering bottle service. That closeness creates a sense of responsibility. One of the worst attitudes that’s prevalent in the NBA is that of a lack of responsibility to each other as teammates. This isn’t college, and these guys are professionals, on the lookout for their own careers. But look to the Dallas Mavericks for a great example of a team that held each other and themselves accountable to one another. That kind of attitude helped them to be honest with each other, to rely on each other, to play more closely together. The Mavericks weren’t a group of idealistic young guns, they were a slightly mercenary-like combination of veterans. But talking to any of them during their Finals run, they were extremely committed to one another. Keeping that chemistry with an offseason workout can help things.
And finally, maybe the best reason, it’ll keep players in a groove physically. Conditioning is a huge part of the NBA and keeping in shape can be a challenge without trainers to complain. Having an opportunity and a reason to really work hard, versus individual workouts which, as everyone can attest to, can often get derailed for anything from slight pains to just not feeling like it, helps players keep their edge.
Teams like the Celtics won’t organize these kinds of events until at least the fall. They’ve been around too long and want the rest. The Lakers are unlikely to, given how busy each of them are with being Lakers, plus Artest will apparently be in England. But if there’s one team that really needs to use its fairly considerable resources to work together?
It’s the Heat.
The Heat should be pulling every member on a long-term contract back to South Beach and should be holed up in a gym, working, improving. They should be bringing in semi-pros to work with, inviting Durant’s team down for a workout, trying to keep in shape and get better chemistry. It’s not going to happen, but the best thing LeBron James could do to keep out of the spotlight and try and get his career where it needs to go is to start working all the way through this lockout.