Billy Donovan travels to see OKC Thunder players with new mission in mind

OKC Thunder: Billy Donovan (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: Billy Donovan (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder Head Coach, Billy Donovan continues his practice of meeting with players in the offseason but this time around it’s with a new mission in mind.

As the offseason began for the OKC Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan he was yet again leaving the previous campaign with thoughts of underperforming on his mind. Losing to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs certainly wasn’t what the coach had in mind when the team re-signed Paul George in the summer of 2018.

Having cleared the hurdle of bringing George back the coach had great reasons to be optimistic about the 2018-19 campaign. General Manager, Sam Presti found a way to offload the albatross salary of Carmelo Anthony and on top of that brought back Dennis Schroder in the process. This was considered a coup given the Thunder had struggled in 2017-18 with finding a playmaker and optimizing scoring off the bench.

Sadly, the addition of Schroder and return of George still netted the same result – another first-round oust. Worse the teams the OKC Thunder were losing to in the first rounds were teams they should be beating based on talent. That marked three consecutive first-round exits for the Thunder and four straight seasons Donovan hadn’t been able to break through the bubble to get his squad to the NBA Finals.

Now, Donovan will enter this coming season with a different mandate on the table and the need to utilize his College skillset as development and growth will take center stage. Although the Thunder have talents within the roster the goals have shifted. And, in truth, it would behoove the team to not perform up to potential as draft picks (with protections) weigh in the balance. Perform too well and potentially lose the pick which could bring in a quality prospect.

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For those not smitten with the OKC Thunder coach and his handling of the squad he now has a chance to showcase what made him a top rated coach in the NCAA.

In the interim Donovan continues with his typical offseason routine of preparation which includes visiting members of the team in their home cities. This summer that led to Billy D traveling to Europe where he met up with Dennis Schroder in Germany and Danilo Gallinari in Athens Greece. Gallo was in Greece preparing for the FIBA World Cup prior to undergoing an appendectomy.

While in Athens Donovan attended the Acropolis international tournament. Eurohoops reports Donovan also saw had a flashback witnessing his former players Nick Calathes and Scottie Wilbekin playing for their Greek and Turkish teams respectively.

While the OKC Thunder won’t be starting the season with visions of gold balls dancing in their minds this season is no less important. Particularly, how Donovan deals with growing the youngsters on the team and positions the squad for the future.

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If he doesn’t figure out how to excel in those areas this might be the last summer he’s making trips on behalf of the OKC Thunder.