Could OKC Thunder gain an edge vs. opponents via earlier return to practice?

With some teams yet to reopen practice facilities could the OKC Thunder gain an edge over potential opponents from their earlier return to the Thunder Ion?

Almost two months after the NBA league suspended play teams began reopening practice facilities. The OKC Thunder joined this phase when they reopened the Thunder Ion on May 18th. At week start 19 teams had reached this phase of slowly easing back to some sense of normalcy.

Of the remaining11 teams, most joined the majority this week by either reopening their doors or slowly phasing in players returning for workouts.

  • Tuesday, May 26th: Brooklyn Nets reopened the HSS Center. Both New York teams were held back due to the state-mandated stay at home order. However, Governor Cuomo’s announcement gave the green light for the state’s professional sports teams to open their training and practice facilities.
  • Tuesday, May 26th: Charlotte Hornets reopened the Novant Health Training Center inside the Spectrum Center.
  • Thursday, May 28th: The Philadelphia 76ers reopened Intect Inc. which is located in Camden New Jersey and was the reason for the delay. However, like the New York teams state approval came via Governor Phil Murphy.
  • Thursday, May 28th: Dallas reopened Mavericks Training Center.
  •  Friday, May 29th: The Washington Wizards reopened MedStar Wizards Performance Center.
  • Friday, May 29th: New York Knicks reopened MSG Training Center.

Two more teams will reopen this coming week:

  • The Boston Celtics are set to join this group when they reopen the Auerbach Center on Monday, June 1st.
  • Chicago Bulls had planned to open the Advocate Center Friday but moved the date to Wednesday, June 3rd.

That leaves three teams: the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, and Detroit Pistons. The latter two are awaiting state approval with the Warriors expected back mid-June.

Could OKC Thunder gain an advantage via earlier workouts?

The perplexing team on this list is the Spurs given they would be included in three of the four scenarios Adam Silver is considering for the July 31st return. The lone plan where the Spurs don’t make the cut is if only the 16 current playoff seeds return and that’s doesn’t seem to be the likely choice.

This fact got me thinking about whether extra time in a practice facility would offer an advantage for teams like the OKC Thunder.

A week or two might not mean much but some teams have already been back for three weeks. Perhaps it’s not as big of a factor as players who failed to stay in shape during the stay at home phase.

The Spurs roster is comprised of a mix of veterans and youth and given their culture and identity it wouldn’t be surprising to learn each individual is actively committed to staying in shape. Still, veterans will be more susceptible to soft tissue injuries if they rush back or haven’t stayed in shape. Considering the Spurs primary scorers/contributors are DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay it would be wise to get them back in the gym as soon as possible.

Furthermore, it’s not like the Spurs don’t have history to call upon when it comes to non-typical seasons. San Antonio won the first of their five titles in the strike-shortened season. Hence, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs brain trust know better than anyone how to win a title in an unusually shortened season.

While the OKC Thunder is unlikely to find themselves facing the Spurs in the playoffs that’s not definitive. If the league decides to utilize the group bracket round-robin format the Thunder could face any of the four tier-five teams.

Ultimately, it’s not likely to be a huge factor unless the player(s) in question didn’t make efforts during the hiatus to stay in shape. Then again, confidence has a remarkable way of affecting a player’s ability to perform. In a year when nothing is normal even the smallest advantage can be positioned as something to reap the rewards from.

Next: Dissecting 16 playoff seeds and 4 WC team records