Bricktown Beat

Thunder open training camp at old practice facility, retell decade-worth of history

Photo Credits: Sarah Phillips/The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma City Thunder is built upon its history. Though the franchise is in its infancy in comparison to other franchises, the groups’ 13-year tenure in Bricktown has been jam-packed with emotion, excitement, and determination towards basketball.

Oklahoma City’s inaugural season sprouted from humble beginnings. Led by sophomore Kevin Durant, and a rising rookie in Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s first rodeo posted a 23-59 record, good for 13th in the Western Conference. 

At the time, the Thunder’s grassroots approach playing behind a duo of 20-year-olds, a portion of underlooked prospects, and a slew of veterans in their twilight ages caused commotion among those unhappy with relocation. However, their gritty start in Tornado Alley paved the way for what the franchise has become today — a winner.

But before the franchise began its quest for success. The story started from the meekest of places, a roller-skating rink.

In an acquisition comparable to that of a start-up, the Oklahoma City Thunder purchased and renovated an old metal roller-skating rink back in 2008. The rink became a proving ground for the original pillars of the franchise, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and more — and it stayed that way until 2011.

Since the Thunder parted ways from their original facility, the building collected dust bunnies, being used on off days or for hosting basketball camps throughout the year. However, when the Thunder’s then D-League affiliate Tulsa 66ers relocated to Bricktown, the roller-rink became a safe haven yet again, having been the primary practice facility for the Oklahoma City Blue since 2014.

While many former players and staff have moved on from their days at the roller rink, Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault fondly remembers the facility. Daigneault, age 36, worked as an assistant coach for the University of Florida once the Thunder moved out, but when the Blue packed their bags to Oklahoma City, Daigneault tagged along as the team’s rookie head coach.

Daigneault also outgrew the roller-rink status to become an assistant under Billy Donovan in 2019 before earning head coaching duties last season, but his time in the metal building did not go unforgotten, it’s become a message.

Now, the Thunder will partake in week one of training camp back at the franchise’s roller-skating roots.

“It’s important to understand your history and past before you tackle your present,” said Daigneault. “You’re sweating into the same floor as many hard-working people.”

As later noted by Daigneault, the week-long venture had been decided after a team meeting hosted by himself and GM Sam Presti. In a separate one-on-one conversation, forward Darius Bazley expressed that he wanted training camp to begin at the Blue’s practice facility. 

The wish has been granted.

The Thunder’s training camp roster will participate in two-a-day practice sessions this week from Tuesday until Friday, looking to display the same intensity once held at the roller-skate facility. 

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