OKC Thunder: Billy Donovan media session offers positive Andre Roberson news

For the first time since March 11th, OKC Thunder head coach Billy Donovan met with the media

With the July 30th target date to resume the season teams are gradually spending more time on the court and in larger numbers. As the OKC Thunder enters the next phase of preparation head coach Billy Donovan and one player will meet with media remotely after practice time to answer questions.

On Wednesday, the Thunder cornerstone Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the player who talked to pundits and Billy Donovan also met with media in a separate remote session.

Notably, the Thunder are moving to daily mandatory workouts which means we’ll hear from the head coach daily until the team leaves for Orlando on July 8th.

The last time Donovan met with media it was three months and 20 days ago. The date was March 11th and the opponent was the Utah Jazz. As we all now know, that match was postponed with Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19, and by night’s end, the NBA had suspended the 2019-20 season.

With such a large gap since the Thunder coach was available to media, understandably, there was a wide range in the queries asked.

OKC Thunder head coach Billy Donovan addresses media:

Prior to diving into Billy D’s media session, one miscellaneous item covered was television coverage.

As per Daily Thunder beat reporter Brandon Rahbar, the local crew of Michael Cage, Chris Fisher, Matt Pinto, Nick Gallo, etc will be working remotely to cover games.

That’s the expectation for all 22 participating team’s local TV crews. Four games will be featured on National TV as we covered in our 8 seeding games article.

Notably, the eighth seeding game for all teams remains open in terms of timing and broadcast information. Presumably, the league wants to exercise a ‘wait and see’ approach in order to get air games that will affect seeding on National TV.

The Thunder are set to play the LA Clippers in their eighth match. Entering the Disney bubble the teams seeded second through six are separated by four games in the win/loss column. Additionally, the Mavericks trail the Thunder and Rockets by 1.5 games and the Jazz by 2.5 games.

TI’s previous article noted final seeding will be based on win percentage as the initial tiebreak method.

The following is the notable responses Billy Donovan offered in the Q and A session:

Advantage or disadvantage of the 8 seeded game schedule:

With each team playing eight-seeded games in Orlando there will be benefits and disadvantages for every team other than the Pelicans and 76ers who won the Disney schedule lottery.

With only 22 teams participating it means any games that were on tap against the eight lottery-bound clubs are off the itinerary. The resulting effect is some teams end up playing stiffer competition.

Several items affect the strength of schedule but one main factor is cumulative win totals (CWT) of the eight opponents. The OKC Thunder land in the middle of the pack for CWT of opponents at seventh in the West and 13th of the 22 teams.

“Everybody is dealing with the schedule handed to them. We just have to work hard to get back to where we were.”

What is the status of the roster heading to Orlando?

Donovan noted all 17 players are back in Oklahoma and each of them has been in for individual workouts. In terms of who is committed to participating in the Disney bubble, the coach said they haven’t heard from everyone yet.

Our guys came back. They’ve been really great about wanting to play. Although they haven’t been able to play 5-5 or 4-4, they’ve been very active individually.”

How the team looks:

Reflecting back to March 11th the OKC Thunder and Lakers had the best 10 game record of 8-2 when the league stopped. As for where the team is now its sort of like asking Donovan to find a needle in a haystack since he won’t be able to fully assess the situation until the team can scrimmage five on five.

“I know how our team looked going into the Utah game, but I don’t know what our team will look like going into Orlando. We have to work and support each other. Guys will be away from their families and we’re all dealing with stuff we haven’t had to before.

Chris Paul’s leadership:

To no one’s surprise, the bench boss is suitably impressed with Chris Paul both in terms of what he’s done for the team and his current very active role as NBPA president.

Some may wonder if Paul’s busy schedule has affected his ability to prepare for Orlando, but this is a guy who is driven and competitive.

In fact, Paul will be a valuable asset for the Thunder in Orlando to help the younger members of the roster deal with the unusual circumstance as Donovan noted.

” I’ve never been around a guy who can handle all that (league stoppage, social justice issues, leading a team, etc.), I think he will be a great resource for our team”

Donovan on status of Andre Roberson:

Arguably, the topic most were anxious to learn more about was Andre Roberson‘s status. Donovan touched on Roberson in a few different comments.

First, on where Andre is at physically:

 “Andre has been here, its hard for me to give a real assessment for where he’s at. The plan is that when we’re in Orlando is to get him out there 5-on-5 and see how he feels.”

And second his overall mindset:

“He feels like he’s made really significant progress, so I’m really happy for him that he’s in a good place and wants to see how he feels once we start playing five-on-five.”

Over the past few months, we’ve opined on Andre Roberson’s presence in Orlando could mean for the Thunder. The fact he’s going with the team to Orlando is positive.

Thunder Nation should exercise cautious optimism since we’ve heard this before —- several times. Two training camps of expectations have watered down our enthusiasm for “he’s back” commentary. Until Roberson is in a game it’s hard to get too amped up about him being back.

If Roberson is ready physically and capable of the top-level defense he delivered prior to his horrific injury that would be a real x-factor for the Thunder.

Let’s not forget the current debate is how players will be adversely affected by not playing actual games for what will be over four months. Then consider if Andre Roberson plays it will be two years and five months since his last professional game.

Again, I’m cautious over the Roberson feedback because Donovan has made these types of comments in the last two preseason. Perhaps the difference this time is ARob’s mindset is noted as positive and confident.

When Dre exited the team this season to continue rehab it was noted his emotional state was down and he was lacking confidence. To hear these positive assessments that at least gives us a sliver of hope. As a player, the fans love nothing would make Thunder Nation happier than to finally see him back on the hardwood. Here’s hoping he gets that opportunity.