OKC Thunder re-open Ion practice facility for voluntary workouts

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder opened the doors to the Ion practice facility on Monday, May 18th joining 16 other NBA teams who’ve begun voluntary player workouts.

The first signs of the OKC Thunder getting prepared for a season return occurred Monday as the doors to the Thunder Ion practice facility re-opened.

Restrictions were loosened in Oklahoma City last week – – approximately 11 days ago. At that time the Thunder wasn’t ready to join other industries that were opening their doors including gyms and fitness facilities.

The main reason for the hesitation by the franchise was management wanted to be able to test the players as required. That was an issue initially as each team is consciously making sure any testing they undertake wouldn’t take away from tests needed for front line workers and the community.

At first, the NBA said no testing could be undertaken but eased up on that first mandate. The association changed their stance with the caveat teams could test if local health officials deemed there were enough tests available and teams could provide written affirmation. In the statement from the OKC Thunder, they confirmed that is the situation and any testing they undertake of players or staff will be conducted by an independent laboratory.

With the Ion open it allows for up to four Thunder players at a time to enter the facility to get up shots and undertake workouts. In this first stage of players returning to the practice facility, there are a number of restrictions to be met.

Although four players can be at the Ion at any given time they must still keep a safe distance from the others on site. In addition, Billy Donovan nor any of the main assistants can be on hand although one staffer can be there.

Temperature checks will occur prior to anyone entering and cleaning of the facility is essential after each session. As per Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman a few Thunder players have already taken advantage of the doors opening with others expected to partake in voluntary workouts.

"A Thunder spokesman said a “handful” of players are expected back for voluntary workouts and that some already had been in the facility Monday."

The majority of NBA teams have opened their practice facilities although some teams are still not able to join in. For example, neither New York team can return based on their stay at home measures extending into June.

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Of the 30 teams, up to 22 are either back or expected back this week. The Atlantic Division is the one with the most teams still out (76ers, Nets, Knicks, and Celtics) although the Celtics are expected back no later than May 24th. The Wizards and Hornets in the Southeast Division haven’t returned while the Bulls and Pistons are the two Central Division teams still out.

Five teams in the West are still out including the Spurs and Mavericks in the Southwest Division, the Wolves in the Northwest division plus the Warriors and Suns in the Pacific division.

Notably, many of the teams yet to re-open their facilities are lottery teams which might be why they aren’t in a rush to join their counterparts. Of the 13 teams out, only the Nets, Celtics, 76ers, and Mavericks were seeded when the suspension began on March 11th.

It will be interesting to witness if the four seeded clubs are adversely affected by opening up late if the season returns.

For now, it’s great the OKC Thunder can get back to some sense of normalcy and for those players who live in condos no doubt they are thrilled to be able to get up shots on an actual NBA regulation hoop.

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