Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Taking a look at last year vs. this year

Just returned from the last 66ers practice before the Christmas break. Sat down for a few minutes with Moses Ehambe to discuss the difference between this year and last year. Tulsa is 6-5 after 11 games this year while the 66ers were 3-8 at a similar point last season. Ehambe is one of two current Tulsa players (Steven Hill is the other) to be with the 66ers both seasons.

Ehambe told me the locker room chemistry is good, just like last year, but it's the mental mindset of the team that has changed the most.

"We have more of a team approach this year," Ehambe said. "No one on this team is thinking 'I have to get mine' or thinking only what they have to do to get to the next level. We also have a lot more confidence this year. We know we can play with and beat the best teams in the D-League."

Ehmabe points to a visit from Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks as a real turning point for the team.

"When he came to our practice, he told each of us to not get complacent," Ehambe said. "The Thunder already have Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. They're looking for people who are making the extra pass, hustling to get a rebound, and playing solid defense."

Defense has been preached by the 66ers and Thunder coaching staffs since the opening day of practice and it shows. In Tulsa's last outing, defense made the difference as Tulsa rallied from an 11-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to win in overtime. Tulsa held the Vipers to 5-of-27 shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, while limiting the West Conference leaders to nearly 16 points below their season average, even with the overtime period.

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