The Oklahoman

Media day: Highlights from Thunder players, coaches

- Justin Martinez

The Oklahoma City Thunder held its media day on Monday.

The Thunder went 22-50 last season and is looking to build around a young core of players such as Shai GilgeousAl­exander, Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley. The team begins preseason play on Oct. 4 with a home game against Utah.

Here’s what Oklahoma City players and coaches had to say on Monday.

Mark Daigneault

On the state of the team: “We have a blank canvas kind of staring us in the face. It’s not often that you get that opportunit­y, especially with a team that’s layered with young talent, and we’re excited about attacking that challenge and seeing what we can make of it. How we play, the personalit­y of the team, the identity of the team is unwritten at this point, and that’s a great opportunit­y.”

On the health of the team: “The short answer is yes. The one guy, (Derrick) Favors, has a little bit of swelling in his knee. He’s not injured. He will participat­e in camp, but we’re going to take a cautious approach with him in terms of reps. We’re prioritizi­ng him being ready for the regular season... He’s taking reps tomorrow, to be perfectly clear.”

Tip-in: Daigneault and his wife, Ashley, are expecting their first child. Daigneault said she is due in November and they have learned they will be having a boy.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

On his health after suffering a torn plantar fascia in his right foot last season: “I feel 150 percent. I’ve felt good for a long time now, and I’m super excited to play... I’m completely back, like I’m jumping, running as fast as I can with no restrictio­ns at all.”

On his max contract extension: “Obviously it was a dream come true. Super proud of it, super happy about it, obviously. But I know for me, the job is not done, work is not done. It’s just one milestone I get to cross off my list, but I still have 90 percent of my list, so I won’t stop.”

On his offseason improvemen­ts: “I tried to focus on getting better at everything day by day. I do feel like I got better as a basketball player and I will be better this year... I think I feel stronger and faster.”

Mike Muscala

On playing with OKC’s young core: “It’s invigorati­ng being around them on the court… Sam (Presti) and the front office have brought in good people, and you can tell.”

On why OKC is a good fit for him: “I love the city itself. I think there are a lot of parts to the city that when you’re an away team you don’t get to appreciate, and living here the last two years I’ve been very happy with my time... From an organizati­onal standpoint, I just feel like I really appreciate what the Thunder are about. I appreciate the fans, the people in the front office, coaching staff and the players that come in.”

Derrick Favors

On being traded to the Thunder this offseason: “I talked to Sam (Presti) and to Coach (Daigneault), and we just had a good conversati­on about what’s expected and how I’m going to fit in and what the future holds. We had a good conversati­on... I feel good about it. I’m happy to be here.”

Lu Dort

On taking a leap last season: “Obviously last year I had the opportunit­y just because the team that we had compared to my first year, so I was able to show that to everybody. I feel like this year I’m going to just stick to the same… I’m just so excited to get it back and then start the season, too.”

On his progressio­n this offseason: “I feel like I had a great off-season. Still, I lost a couple pounds, and I’ve been boxing, going to some jiu-jitsu, track, playing soccer and tennis. I’ve really been doing a lot of stuff this off-season just to get my body conditioni­ng.”

Darius Bazley

On adding some muscle this offseason: “I took like two weeks off after the season ended and then got straight to it. Me and the strength coaches, we had a plan, and we stuck to it… I definitely was in the weight room trying to get bigger and get stronger for this upcoming season.”

On his confidence entering his third NBA season: “I’ve had a lot of experience­s. I’ve been able to grow through them all. I’m a lot more comfortabl­e coming into this year kind of having a sense of just knowing what to expect, what’s going to be in front of me, what the year kind of looks like.”

Kenrich Williams

On what he worked on this offseason: “Just pretty much everything, the whole game. Just tried to pretty much tighten everything up. I feel like I’ve figured out how to play in the league, so it’s just more about tightening stuff up, working on your handle, tightening the shot up, just working on your mental and everything like that.”

Ty Jerome

On seeing former Virginia teammate Mamadi Diakite get signed by the Thunder on Sunday: “I was super excited to see that yesterday. He actually called me right away, so that was pretty cool. I think you guys can expect just energy, a great teammate, and he’ll come ready to work.“

Vit Krejci On is health status after missing last season due to an ACL injury: “Last

week was my first time playing pickup games, so right now I’m all clear to play, and it’s just a nice… Actually yesterday it was one year since the injury, so it’s just nice to be back. I feel physically good. I haven’t felt the knee once. I’m happy to be back on the floor and get ready for the season.”

Aleksej Pokusevski

On not playing the Summer League: “They decided because they told me they want me to work on my body, and we couldn’t do that if I wanted to play in the Summer League. We had like (a) great two and a half months, I think, of work in the weight room. I improved there for sure. I have seen some improvemen­t, but as I said, I want to see what I can do in the season.”

Josh Giddey

On how his ankle feels after hurting it in the Summer League: “The ankle is good, healthy, back to normal… It was obviously really frustratin­g, but the medical team and me, we took the right kind of steps and made sure I got healthy and didn’t rush the rehab process. (I’m) healthy now, but we made the right decision not going back out there.”

On the difference between the NBL and the NBA: “The spacing on the floor, a lot have said to me, that’s the main difference from that league to this league. And that’s kind of passing the ball is what I do the best in my game, and the space is going to help me… It’s not going to be a negative at all being able to play with such a bigger floor and then obviously having the shooters that we do and that the NBA does.”

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

On what he brings to the team: “I take a lot of pride in defensive rebounding. Those are things that can help the team win games on the defensive end and just being able to help those guys that have been here score the ball, just put them in positions for success.”

Tre Mann

On his versatilit­y: “I think I’m versatile, so I can play either on the ball or off the ball and also I can score and make plays for my teammates. So whatever coach (Daigneault) needs me to do, I think I could do that. Whether that be on the ball or off the ball, making plays or scoring.”

Théo Maledon

On how he handles competitio­n for playing time: “I think healthy competitio­ns help rise the level overall of the team, so I think it’s good. I personally want to see everyone win as much as I want to, so for me it’s healthy and good to be out there wanting to compete against those people.”

Isaiah Roby

On attending the OU-Nebraska football game as a Nebraska alum: “It was fun. It was a great game. I was just hoping that we kept it competitiv­e, and I mean, shoot, we had a real good shoot at winning that game. I was up there in my Nebraska gear… We had a great time.”

 ?? ?? “I feel like I had a great off-season,” said guard Lu Dort, who is entering his third season with the Thunder.
“I feel like I had a great off-season,” said guard Lu Dort, who is entering his third season with the Thunder.
 ?? PHOTOS BY CHRIS LANDSBERGE­R/THE OKLAHOMAN ?? Thunder coach Mark Daigneault poses for photos during the team's media day at the Paycom Center on Monday.
PHOTOS BY CHRIS LANDSBERGE­R/THE OKLAHOMAN Thunder coach Mark Daigneault poses for photos during the team's media day at the Paycom Center on Monday.

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