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September 24, 2018

Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

BILLY DONOVAN: The last time we were together, spent a lot of time in the off-season certainly with the returning players, and then the guys that are new, just really, I think, focusing on how we can be more consistent. That certainly was a challenge, I think, for us last year. Some of it was understandable as it related to having so much of a new team. But I think starting off, becoming a consistent team, and the fact that we have an opportunity every day to go to work as a team, to improve, to get to know each other, but for me, it really starts with the work and the commitment that we make starting tomorrow to be more consistent in the areas that we were lacking. Certainly that's a priority for us.

And then I think just the opportunity to understand that we're afforded each and every day to start at ground zero and to try to build back up, to try to improve and try to get better. I'm looking forward to that process starting tomorrow.

Q. I know you always believe in the process and believe in what you're doing, but when a guy like Paul George comes for a year and then re-ups for at least three more, is that sort of an endorsement that, hey, we're doing things right, we're running the kind of organization that we ought to be running?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I mean, I'll let Paul speak to that. My dialogue with him after the season ended, before free agency, was really, really positive. I think Paul probably understood that coming in last year and so much of the team being new and it being an adjustment period, I think he felt good about his relationship with Russell, the relationship with the rest of the guys on the team.

Paul is an easy guy to work with, easy guy to communicate with. So I think he felt like just based on being here for a year, I think he felt comfortable, obviously, moving forward.

I think it speaks to his teammates, the organization, everybody all the way around.

Q. With Russell's surgery, was that something he could have had earlier in the season, or was it just at that point he had to have it?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, obviously Russell made that decision. He'll talk about that. But I think for him, he felt like it was the best thing to do at this point in time. We feel very, very fortunate that it was obviously nothing serious, and he's working hard to get himself back, whenever that time may be.

Q. Do you think with the roster finally solidified this season, do you think there's maybe a more obvious direction and flow with Paul George and Russell, maybe that there maybe wasn't last season?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think any time you have two high-caliber players like that, there's always going to be an adjustment period that goes on in terms of getting to know each other, how each other plays, how do you play off of each other. I just think that that's normal. But I think because of Russell's investment here over his entire career, who he is as a leader, I think he and Paul really developed a very, very close and good relationship that I think they work through those things. So I would say they're probably at a better place this year starting the season than they were a year ago because they really just didn't know each other in terms of that kind of familiarity. So that part of it I think is positive.

Q. Your initial thoughts on being able to work with Dennis, getting more time with Dennis than you would have had with Carmelo last year? And second, Dennis and Russell together, those are two guys who are very good in pick-and-roll, like to get downhill. How do you play those two styles together?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, before the trade ever happened, I had an opportunity to speak with Dennis, and we had some very, very candid conversations, and the one thing I would say coming from those conversations is that he's extremely competitive, and winning is a high priority for him. Certainly we'll have to work through those situations. I think both those guys can play together on the floor. I think they'd both be effective. Both of those guys know that one of them is not going to have the ball in their hands as a point guard if they're both on the floor together. But it's going to be those two guys getting familiar with each other, playing with each other, but that would be something that I think would be something we would need to work on. Obviously it would be a little bit more challenging with Russell's situation in training camp, maybe not having the opportunity to do that tomorrow, but I think going forward when Russell does return, I think that's something that we're going to need to look at because I think that could be a positive for our team.

Q. How has Steven evolved in the last couple of years, and how is that evolution tied to the evolution of the position he plays?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, Steven has continued to get better every year since I've been here. You know, he's obviously an elite defender. He's a terrific roller. I thought last year his role really kind of -- he flowered in it, did a great job last year, all the way from the beginning all the way to the end, and I think the things that we needed him to do to impact the team, he really did. So Steven has always been a really good team guy. He's always put the team first and has always had an attitude of what can I do to help, what can I do to make the team better, and I thought last year the way he played from start to finish was -- he had a terrific year.

Q. In regard to Carmelo last year, he was a guy who kind of came, I guess, two days before training camp and you had a plan to have Patrick as that guy starting at power forward. Do you have many notes together from when you were putting together your plan for that group? Is it going to be easier for you to go into this season with a guy like Patrick because you've had time with Patrick and you had a plan for Patrick going into the season last year?
BILLY DONOVAN: Yeah, I mean, I don't think you necessarily always have just an individual plan. It's really from a team perspective. Obviously it was a little bit different with Carmelo coming in, in fairness, so close to training camp. I think he got in town the day before. So you always are going to go back and look at notes and look at things to evaluate the season, to evaluate players and try to put them in positions to be successful.

But you know, again, the situation was what it was last year with Carmelo, with him coming in so late. There was really nothing that we could do about that. But again, I've always felt very strongly about Patrick as a player, Jerami as a player. I think those guys can help us. I think they both complement each other very well. But I don't necessarily think that looking at last year things that maybe we wanted to do with Patrick, you still have to look at there are some different players on our team this year, so what's best for the entire group. We'll have to see how that plays itself out. I'm not going to really talk about that because, one, I haven't had a chance to see certainly Dennis on the floor, and Timothe on the floor, Nader on the floor. There's different players out there, Nerlens. We'll have to see how all that works out. I think both Patrick and Jerami realize and understand that both those guys will be important to our team going forward this year.

Q. Coach, there's reason for optimism about Dennis coming aboard and what all he's done in the past, but there are a couple of questions. His three-point shooting I think last year was 29 percent, and he doesn't have a history of being an established elite defender. In fact, some people say much less. Sam had mentioned he's expecting him to be an elite defender. Can you describe what you're expecting in those two areas from him?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, you know, I think when Dennis -- I remember when Dennis was a young player, he's more than capable as a defender. He's got the ability to do that. I think when he probably started off in Atlanta, their team looked drastically different than it did probably a year ago. There was probably an evolution for him as it related from coming off the bench to starting. So there's different things that he was probably dealing with. But I certainly feel like he has the ability to be a good defender and has the capability -- I mean, earlier in his career he picked up full court, he was very, very aggressive, he's got really good feet, he's got good hands, he's got long arms, so I believe he can be a very good defender.

With the three-point shooting, obviously his skill, his strength has been getting to the lane. But I also think, too, is him getting comfortable and taking threes that are within rhythm and good for him. He's got the ability to make threes. I don't want to sit here and say he's been an elite three-point shooter because obviously the stats say he hasn't. But I still feel like for him to do what he does well, he's going to have to take some threes to keep the defense honest, so to speak, so he can create more opportunities to get into the paint.

Q. What are your main goals going into training camp? What questions do you want to have answered for this team?
BILLY DONOVAN: Well, I think the biggest thing for us, if you look at our team last year, and certainly we've got some new players coming in, we were inconsistent in a lot of ways. We've certainly -- against high-level teams, we've competed very well. There were some teams that maybe weren't in the realm of maybe being at the playoff level that we didn't perform well against. So I think the biggest thing for us is the consistency part, you know, consistently playing to a style and an identity that we need to game to game. I think that starts trying to establish that identity and style of how you want to play tomorrow. And I think that's what we've got to do. We've got to be willing to put the work in to create and have an identity that's going to be something that we can rely on that helps us be a more consistent team than we were a year ago.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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