Sam Presti Talking To Player Reps
For the first time in months, the Oklahoma City Thunder extended an invitation to the media to meet with its executive vice president and general manager, Sam Presti.
HOOPSWORLD was there as Presti made an opening statement at a Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Oklahoma City; he then held a brief question-and answer session.
He kicked off the press conference with this statement:
“It’s good for us to be back, as an organization, as a basketball team. I think I can speak for everybody within the Thunder that we’re excited. We’re excited for this season, but we’re also grateful for the support that we’ve received from everybody in Oklahoma, (in) Oklahoma City, from the community in general. We all know the type of fans that we have. We all know the type of community that this is. It’s such a close-knit place and a place that has such tremendous civic pride. We’re grateful for that support and also for the opportunity to take the floor. We’re excited to get back to work.”
We were advised not to bother questioning him about player contracts and extensions or signings or even the players themselves. However, there was still plenty of ground to cover, starting with how the organization is preparing for the new season.
“The last 24 hours have been a little bit of a scramble,” Presti said. “We’ve got a lot of things that we have to do…getting players in, just basically preparing ourselves for what’s ahead. The good thing is that everybody’s in the same situation. We’ve done everything that we can do from a basketball operation standpoint to prepare for when this day would come. I’m confident in the people that we have, confident in our staff, and we’ll look forward to seeing everybody back at work.”
When asked simply “Are you open tomorrow?” Presti said this: “We’ll be open, and we anticipate having some people there. With the news being pretty sure, it makes a situation like this pretty fluid. We’ll probably see a steady stream of guys over the next few days.”
“We’re looking forward to seeing where they are when they come back into town,” he added. “There will be, certainly, a period of evaluation to see where everybody is physically and try to get a better understanding of how we can support them and help them improve, and ultimately get them ready for the year. I’m confident that we’ll attack that with all hands on deck.”
Those hoping to gain any tidbits concerning a Russell Westbrook extension departed without any such confirmation; he indicated that only contact with player representatives has commenced.
However, Presti did disclose his expectation of burning up the telephone lines in efforts to ascertain the current market situation.
“Part of my job – usually it’s a little bit earlier – is to have a little bit of a pulse on what’s going on within the market,” he explained. “Today is no different. We’re going to make a lot of phone calls to try to understand if there’s ways for us to improve…if there’s ways for us even just to take stock in what’s going on.
“In relation to our players, obviously we can’t talk directly to any of them and haven’t been able to, but today we were at least able to reach out to their representatives, and we’ve done a pretty decent job of that.”
Presti jogged the memories of some by sharing how the Thunder is uniquely ready for training camp next week, followed by two preseason games with an eye on the season-opening tip just a few weeks away. He was referring to the mid-2008 cross-country relocation of the team.
“I don’t think anyone can discount the fact that we’ve had quick turnarounds before,” he said, as reporters nodded their understanding. “We’ve had short preparation time in our first year here in Oklahoma City, so we understand that. There’s no excuse for us. Everybody’s got the same circumstances. We’ll roll our sleeves up and go to work.”
With the lockout creating a shortened season in this newbie NBA city, fears abound that fan support may diminish.
“I can speak specifically about our fans,” said Presti. “I can speak for all of our organization in that our fans are critical to our success. They’re a big part of what we’ve been able to establish and hopefully build upon. We’re grateful for their support, both as a team but also as us being a part of the community.”
That is not just GM-speak. Presti repeatedly makes time to express his gratitude for the city’s fan support.
While the topic of any specific plans in free agency was off-limits, he did again indicate he has no intention of being idle.
“It will kind of evolve over time. I’m not really able to talk too much about what the system is or the rules, but certainly that has an impact. We’re going to do our due diligence…make a lot of phone calls. I can’t tell you how to predict what lays ahead.”
Presti didn’t confirm the Thunder’s preseason opponent, nor did he address the possibility of a Christmas Day start. He did, however, end the conference with quite an appropriate statement.
“I like Christmas. It’s a great holiday and hopefully there will be some gifts that are there under the tree at some point,” he began. “But to be honest with you, for me and everybody that loves basketball as much as I do and this city does, I think just having the team back on the floor is quite a gift in and of itself.”