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September 23, 2016

Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Q. Billy, what have your conversations been like this week with Russell in regards to this season?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think that the one thing for Russell and even just communicating with him, going back to last year, I think Russell is all about the team. And I think his role in terms of not just about him but everybody, our team collectively working and trying to build an identity, working and building on our system, and I think he obviously takes great pride in being a leader to help facilitate that. But I don't think it's necessarily been about Russell and his role.

I mean, Russell is going to do what Russell does, and he does it at a very high level. But it's really more about our team and how we're going to progress moving forward together as a group.

Q. What do you need from the team around Russell to make this an easy transition for him or an easier transition for him?
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, I just really believe it's always been about our team and about us collectively as a group and how we progress and how we continue to build and move forward. You know, Russell is obviously a guy that's been in this league for a long time. He's played at a very, very high level for a long time, and I think from a leadership standpoint what you want to be able to do is make the people around you better and complement them, and I think the players around them got to be able to complement him. So I think developing and building an identity, a system, style of play that we can kind of continue to work towards during the course of the year. We obviously have some new players, and with those new players, that kind of chemistry playing together, some of those things will take time. But we've got a great group of guys that really enjoy being around the guys that were not here last year and getting some time to spend with them during the off-season, and I think they have really, really good, high-quality, character people, and I think going forward will give us an opportunity to build their connection as it relates to playing with each other.

Q. There's a lot of curiosity about the pace of play with Kevin gone. When Kevin was there there was a lot of opportunities for him to do some one-on-one or at times slow it down. How would you address the pace issue that will possibly change?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think we always want to play with pace. I think the one thing from a coaching perspective is you always have things I think you value that are important regardless of personnel. We would like to push the pace and the tempo. I think last year in transition we were one of the better teams in terms of efficiency. Hopefully that can continue and that can become part of our identity in terms of how we play.

But I think because of the speed and the quickness and the athleticism of the group, I really believe we can be a very good running team.

Q. What do you see Victor bringing to this program?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, this is probably one of these recruiting situations, when he was in high school, playing the power forward spot, I recruited Victor a little bit and I made a mistake, didn't offer him a scholarship, probably was a huge mistake.

I think the thing with Victor is he's a great guy. He's obviously played a lot since his rookie year in Orlando. I think Victor is looking to try to come in and contribute and help any way he can.

Certainly the thing that jumps out at you right away is just his motor and his energy and the way he competes and I think defensively he's a guy in the backcourt that gives us a really, really another solid perimeter and defender. I think his game offensively, just being in the league and playing as much as he's had the opportunity to play early on in his career, he's continued to develop and evolve as an offensive player.

Q. Without two starters from last year's team, what are you looking for in your starting lineup?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, one of the things I want to do is not necessarily pass any judgment on anybody because some of these guys I have not coached before and I have seen them on tape but how they fit in and how they all complement each other. The one thing I do like is I think we have flexibility.

I think we have length and size and physicality on our front court. I do think that with the way Andre has evolved as a player is maybe do some different things with him in terms of size lineups, his flexibility, but in terms of the lineups right now, like I really haven't spent much time because I don't want to do that going in where you have Sabonis is new and Joffrey is new, Ersan is new, Victor is new, and you have a lot of new guys.

And I think just to come in without giving those guys to play and compete in training camp, and that's what training camp is for, to see how it all works together and how guys complement each other. And then you've got to look at second unit, how you're going to sub and those kind of things. So that would be something through training camp and through the preseason, we'll get a chance to evaluate.

Q. Especially the first part of the season, experimenting with those lineups?
BILLY DONOVAN: I think you have to do some of that. I know last year I tried to do some, just looking at different things, I think you'd want to do that. But with that group, when you do do that, play to an identity. But I think you want to at least feel like as a coach you're exhausting the whole roster and looking at a lot of different things and keeping guys engaged.

I really believe in the process of going through a season -- everybody plays a really important role in different points in time in the year. I think being able to keep guys engaged -- I think I made a comment last year about a Nick or Anthony, like I always respected and admired their ability to stay ready, maybe when they weren't playing for a period of time, and then they got injected back in there.

I think keeping the roster in terms of the flexibility, looking at different things, I'm sure it's all going to change. There's things that we changed last year in terms of rotations and substitutions and our starting lineup played pretty consistent but just trying to look at different lineups and different things. We'll have to do some of that through the preseason and do that maybe in inside the year just to see if we can get a full complement of guys playing together and how that looks.

Q. You guys have a lot of players who kind of are primarily offensive players or defensive players, how do you manage your rotations to keep the lineups and not too lopsided?
BILLY DONOVAN: That's something no question you have to take a look at in terms of how you have balance because to your point, you can come off in a second unit and you could be in a situation where you may be an offensively heavy team, or you could be too defensively heavy.

So those are the things I think we'll have to figure out in terms of the balance and rotations and some of those things. I do think our roster has a lot of flexibility and I like our guys a lot. I like their disposition and attitude and I like the way they have worked this summer.

I like their openness in terms of coming into, some of these guys, a new situation and the guys being excited about being here and the opportunity to be here. And hopefully collectively as a coaching staff we can help those guys to continue to grow and develop and evolve and we can put those guys in positions, because that's the most important things is putting those guys, all of our guys, in positions where they can take their skill set and utilize their skill set and be effective and be productive.

Q. Shooting is going to be a question; do you see upside in guys like Victor and even Kyle coming into the season in terms of shooting from the perimeter?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, we've got to keep continuing to work at that but one of the things I think you want to do from an identity standpoint is certainly we would like to play with pace and get up-and-down the floor. I think the idea of attacking the paint and being aggressive and trying to attack the paint.

But I feel confident that if we can generate good shots from the perimeter, if we can continue to work with our guys and the amount of time and effort our guys have put into trying to get better. Looking at a guy like Andre, how much he's improved over his career shooting the basketball.

But that will be something that we'll need to continue to work to build confidence in all those areas offensively. I think hopefully through a system, we can do that to develop that kind of confidence; those guys feel really good about shooting the basketball.

Q. You mentioned Andre evolving. In what ways has he evolved motivated and in what ways does that help your team?
BILLY DONOVAN: I think when last year started, I think everybody pretty much looked at Andre as being this defensive stopper and he is certainly great at it and he's worked really, really hard in the off-season because he has gotten corner threes and he has shot the ball better from behind the line, from behind three.

I thought as the playoffs unfolded last year, he did a little bit more as it related to scoring and finding opportunities to be effective without necessarily having to totally rely on his game as being a spot-up three-point shooter.

He's handled the ball better, you know. That's gotten better for him. I think he feels more comfortable and confident offensively. He's put forth effort, like I said in, that area. It's just him continuing to grow offensively and trying to put him in situations where he slash to the basket and he can cut and he can get out in transition and he can take his open corner threes. He can put the ball on the floor some and attack the rim. But I've really seen a lot of growth in him.

Q. Different styles, defensive personnel this year; what should we expect to see from the defense this year just from a style and philosophy standpoint?
BILLY DONOVAN: I've always believed that it's got to be played collectively as a group. We have to play collectively. For us, being a good defensive team is something that we are going to have to put a great effort into starting tomorrow to build an identity and a defensive identity.

It's not so much necessarily one person. I think it's a collection and a group of all of us being committed to doing those things, and there's so many things with defense that it evolves from; it evolves from getting back in transition; it evolves to getting the ball stopped; it evolves keeping the ball out of the paint; finishing off possessions with rebounding.

But the only way to do all those things, you have to do them collectively. As you want to play unselfishly and collectively on offense, I think that you have to do the same thing defensively. You've got to play collectively together on the defensive end.

Q. Given the changes in the off-season, what do you see changing in the offense to make up for some of the scoring that you've lost and compensate for that?
BILLY DONOVAN: Like I said earlier, I think you've got to try to look at our personnel and try to utilize the personnel and put the personnel in positions where those guys can play to their strengths and to their skill sets. We have some unique players.

If you look at our front court of Steven and Enes are big and strong around the basket, rebound and offensive rebound, and have gotten better, both guys, scoring from low posts. Ersan is a terrific three-point shooter. He gives you the floor space and a guy that shoot the ball.

Joffrey is another guy that can step up and face up and shoot the ball. So we have a lot of different things. When you look at all those parts and different skill sets, you want to create a system and an identity that's going to be able to take advantage of those guys' individual skill sets so they can be successful.

So that encompasses a lot of looking at film, watching those guys play, evaluating those guys as players, putting them in situations that you feel like they can be productive. And then through the offense, can we collectively as a group, make each other better; can we find the open man; can we generate good shots; can we generate shots that guys feel very, very comfortable taking and making.

And I always think, any time your personnel changes at all, even from year-to-year, you're going to have a defensive system and philosophy and identity, but I always think that offensively, you have to evolve based on your personnel and when you're personnel changes, you just can't be like, okay, this is our system, this is the way we're going to play and this is all we're going to do and doesn't make a difference in or out of it. You want to think how can I best maximize this player that he gets a chance to utilize what he does very, very well.

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