By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — It could have just been irony or a bad coincidence. But Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti conducted his state of the Thunder press conference the same day the NBA finals began 500 miles south in San Antonio.
One of the first questions Presti took from the assembled media Thursday at the Thunder practice facility was why it was the Spurs hosting Game 1 of the NBA Finals and not Oklahoma City.
“I’ve always said, I think over seven games, the better team wins,” Presti said. “They were the better team over seven games this season. I think they have an identity they play to and we have an identity we play to. Over a seven-game series they were able to capture theirs on a more regular basis than we were ours.”
Much of Presti’s comments during his 32-minute press conference centered on doing things the Thunder way and maintaining the franchises identity.
“I do want to make sure that I’m clear,” Presti said. “I think we have a heck of a base. But to be a high-performing team year after year after year, self evaluation and understanding your strengths and where they can go to, I think is really important.”
Part of that evaluation includes head coach Scott Brooks. Despite calls from critics who say the Thunder skipper needs to go, Presti seems to be sticking with him.
“Scotty, I think, did an excellent job,” Presti said. “I understand we all have a tendency to look at the last game or the last series. I respect that. That’s part of sports. I can’t do that. I’m looking at a body of work. I’m looking at an understanding of what drives our success and the way in which we have gotten to this point. Scott, like every single person in this organization, is going to take a look at the ways he can move the needle and grow incrementally.”
When it came to current players, the status of Reggie Jackson and Kendrick Perkins were a hot-button topic.
For Perkins, it’s a matter of if getting rid of him make the Thunder better. In Presti’s estimation, using the amnesty clause on his contract doesn’t improve the team.
“We will look at everything as we always do,” Presti said. “But as we said before, it’s not something being considered to this point. Kendrick, as we know, is someone that has contributed to a lot of our success. Quite honestly, we’d be having this press conference a lot sooner if he was not a part of the organization when we took the floor against Memphis. This conversation would probably be happening in May, not June. Anything with Kendrick would have to have some type of strategic advantage. To this point, it’s not something we’ve really looked at because we haven’t seen the advantage.”
With Jackson getting close to the end of his rookie contract, the Thunder are looking to lock him up long term. But Jackson has stated he wants to be a starting point guard in this league. With Russell Westbrook on the team, that’s highly unlikely.
Yet, Presti said the team has no plans to trade Jackson.
“Reggie, obviously, is a guy we think highly of,” Presti said. “He’s come through the program, he’s been given a myriad of opportunities, some by design and some out of necessity. We are able to have conversations with him starting July 1. We are going to make a concerted effort to try and work something out with him that works for everybody. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll pick the conversations up the following summer and see where that leads us.”
Presti seemed to be generally pleased with every aspect of the team and organization going forward. From the growth of Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb to the salary cap flexibility the team has heading into the offseason. Even with the bench, which had come up short in the postseason, Presti had nothing but good things to report.
Yet, it’s almost certain that several players on the team will be gone this offseason. Thabo Sefolosha, Caron Butler, Hasheem Thabeet, Derek Fisher and Perry Jones could all be in a different uniform next season.
If that is the case, Oklahoma City could find themselves very active in free agency and the draft, where they have two first-round picks. Presti has made it clear he will not sacrifice the future for a chance at short-term glory.
“The goal of any team is to get the most out of that team and maximize it based on the way its built,” Presti said. “We’ve always made our decisions on getting the most out of what we have and how to put everybody in position to be successful and play to their strengths.... We have some decisions coming in the future and we want to make sure that what we do in one year doesn’t rob the future years of the opportunity to maximize themselves. I think we’ve been good about doing that.”
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