Billy Donovan Says Players not Distracted by the Possibility of Being Traded.

Erik Gee

Imagine you're in middle management running a division of a company that's been doing well enough to meet the goals of your direct boss but not the CEO. Your numbers and production are always good, but, there are three or four other divisions that just seem to outperform you. Now, imagine your supervisor comes to you and says your three best salespeople have been sent to other divisions as part of a restructure. He's going to bring in talent to help soften the blow but feels that it's time to start over because you've hit your ceiling and your most valuable assets would like to be someplace that gives them a chance to hit their bonuses before they retire. Did I mention that the replacements are only temporary and will be going to greener pastures themselves?    

 If taking that virtual trip to an anxiety-filled workplace was enough to make you seek other employment then you have successfully put yourself in Billy Donvan's place. Since Sam Presti's highway robbery of the Clippers among others, Donovan has been dealing with a roster that's going to be ripped apart in the coming weeks. Even with this prospect hanging over his head Donvan has been able to get the Thunder to a level that has them in place to win most games going into the fourth quarter. 

Danillo Gallinari is one of many in the organization who are using Oklahoma City as a layover. Gallinari is averaging 16 points and five rebounds which is a shade below his career averages.  During the preseason one of my colleagues remarked that Gallinari looked uninterested when he was on the floor.  Against the Pacers on Wednesday Gallinari hit four threes to start the third quarter. If he isn't engaged it's not showing in his play. Billy Donovan echoed those sentiments "He (Gallinari) has great ability to be present of where he's at. He's been totally invested he's worked really hard and practiced really hard he prepares really hard. There's no discussion at all other than what he can do to help our team." 

Gallinari's team first, attitude may have been helped by the time Billy Donvan spent with him in Athens while Gallinari was playing for team Italy. It would be understandable for Gallinari or any other player on the Thunder to not be company men given everyone is on the trading block. I asked Donovan how hard it was to keep guys engaged when the possibility of being traded is hanging over your head.  

"You have to get to a place where the focus needs to be on what you can control." "I think that's part of being a pro. You have to be able to block out and do your job at a high level regardless of what's going on around you." Dovan points out that life itself can be a distraction, but how you want to go to work every day, what kind of teammate you want to be are things that can be controlled for players and coaches.

For now, the court is a welcome distraction from the thought of being moved, how much longer that holds up depends on the Thunder's win/loss record in the next ten days. Why the next ten days? That's when this summer's group of free-agent signees can start being traded. You can bet Sam Presti already has a plan for that day and the following days. Till then we'll hope this team's attitude stays selfless.