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OKC Thunder: Three observations from Billy Donovan's exit press conference

Billy Donovan staged his post-season press conference Thursday. Here are three quick thoughts about the Thunder coach’s final message of the season:

* Donovan didn’t seem quite certain about his future. It was more his tone than the context of his words. Some thought Donovan talked a little less than usual.

“For me it's just kind of like business as usual,” Donovan said. “Sam (Presti) and I had a chance to visit a little bit on the plane yesterday on the way back, just talking about the next couple days and getting together. So I'm sure he and I will get a chance to sit down as some of this stuff slows down and talk in detail and look forward to that, but for me it's just, OK, handling our players today and the team today and giving them some things to think about going into the off-season, most importantly where we can get better and where we can improve.”

* Donovan said the right things about Russell Westbrook. He praised Westbrook extensively, but he also said that Westbrook wants to play more efficiently – which is code for shoot better.

“I think he's always thinking about ways to improve and to get better,” Donovan said. “I think that's really kind of been pretty consistent throughout his career of him trying to find ways to get better. I thought this year we played a lot faster, which I thought was good for him, than maybe we did a year ago. I think that his incorporating Paul (George) this year and trying to get him going I think was really, really good. I think helping Jerami (Grant), helping Ferg (Terrance Ferguson). But there's always ways that he's always, I think, looking at being more efficient. I think when you talk to Russell he always wants to be an efficient player and play efficiently, so I think there's always ways to try to improve in that area as a point guard, because I think as a point guard in this league and him being an experienced veteran, there's a lot that falls on his plate as it relates to things that he has to do, not only between the lines but in practice, in the locker room, with our team, leading, all those kind of things that maybe a lot of people don't get the opportunity to see.”

* Donovan eventually admitted that Paul George needs help, and maybe that’s as much on defense as offense. Donovan said he can’t see protecting PG, or trying to get him to avoid risks. But there are other players that can take some of the load off George.

“When these guys as big and strong and athletic as they are out there playing and competing, they're always putting themselves in a position that they could possibly get hurt,” Donovan said. “I think the biggest thing, what helps him more from a fatigue standpoint of what he has to do on both ends of the floor, is the development of Terrance (Ferguson) is importance. I also think having Andre (Roberson) back kind of helps that where you can move different guys around to different matchups and lineups and put Paul last series against Portland where he guarded a lot of different people. He guarded (Damian) Lillard, he guarded (C.J.) McCollum, he had (Mo) Harkless sometimes, he played (Al-Farouq) Aminu sometimes. So again, I think the injury part of it is always going to be part of it. I don't think you can ever just say, hey, listen, we're going to play him to avoid injury. It's just like when those guys step across the line, it's kind of like everybody's risk that's playing the game.”

Related Photos
Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan reacts during Game 4 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Portland won 111-98. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan reacts during Game 4 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Portland won 111-98. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7c0b520461b54571fa09bd23d504678a.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan reacts during Game 4 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Portland won 111-98. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan reacts during Game 4 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Portland won 111-98. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan reacts during Game 4 in the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Portland won 111-98. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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