Thunder GM Presti On Dealing With Durant

Oklahoma City thunder General Manager Sam Presti spoke on Monday afternoon, a week after his team lost the seventh Game of the Western Conference Finals to Golden State.

Presti liked what he saw from his team this season, as they played their best basketball in the playoffs.

“You know, I think as we look ahead, we’ve taken the energy and the inspiration from the beginning of the season. We’ve transferred it into a strong progressive momentum for what looks like it could be a really dynamic, expressive, an exciting time for the organization, for the team, both on and off the floor.

“You know, we’re really excited about the group of guys that we have in place, the strides that a lot of them made individually, but probably equally if not more excited about how the individuals fit together and how their progress individually actually came together as progress as a team. We’re poised to be in a position to continue to be first in the league in terms of continuity. We’ve been in that position since 2010. We finished the season the fifth youngest rotation in the NBA since 2010, and we’re also in a position where we feel like we can continue to add to our team without having to deplete it or gut it in order to make progress, which is an exciting place to be in a salary cap system.

“All those things have us excited, and as we’ve talked about, since 2008, our goal has been to sustain success in Oklahoma City, and we’ve had to do that through several different cycles of the team, a lot of things that we’ve had to deal with and that have come our way, but we feel really good that we’re on a platform right now to allow us to continue to do that, which is something we’re all excited about and should all be proud of,” said Presti.

The Thunder’s biggest star, Kevin Durant, is a free agent this offseason and is coveted by many teams, including the Knicks, Lakers, and Celtics.

Presti said of his level of concern a month from when Durant becomes a free agent on July 1, “Well, I think, again, like concern — I think the way you’ve got to look at that is when we signed Kevin to his extension five years ago, we knew that he’d be a free agent at the end of that contract. And we’ve done, I think, a really good job of just focusing on the things that we can control.

“I also think Kevin deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the way he’s handled his affairs, because what it really did was it allowed our team to focus on the season and really made the season we had possible.

“I thought it was a tremendous example of a franchise player putting the franchise first. I thought it was also a tremendous example of leadership on his part, because we’re not able to have that season unless he’s handling his affairs the way that he did, and we’ll — I think first thing is we’ve got to give it some time after the season ends for a couple reasons: One, to reflect and enjoy and appreciate the season that we just had so that we’re not just rushing on to the next thing. We can’t make that decision come faster or slow it down, so we may as well enjoy the season we just had and allow him to do the same. And then when it’s time, we’ll sit down and have that conversation with him, and at that point we’ll know where we stand.”

On what his meeting with Durant will be like compared to other teams selling their franchises to Durant, “Well, again, not to — I think number one is not to make it too overly complex. We’ve had a relationship with Kevin in Oklahoma City for eight years, nine with this particular franchise, and we talk to him all the time. I think when those conversations occur, it’s really just a continuation of a dialogue that’s been going on for eight or nine years. It’s a chance to reflect and recognize that relationship and continue the conversations that we’ve had on going.”

Presti said of how Durant’s decision impacts how he moves forward in his planning process between now and when he does make the decision in regards to whether he tries to make a deal to get into the draft or stay where they are, “Sure. Well, obviously the more clarity you have in any decision-making process, the more it helps you. But like I said earlier, we can’t speed that up, and we can’t slow it down. We’ll get an answer from him at the appropriate time. I think it really is important for him to take his time, get away from things. Look, Kevin is a highly, highly intelligent person. He’s a mature person. He’s a rational person, and he’s going to work through the decision in a way that will help him do what he feels is best for him. We’ll react accordingly once we have that information, and we’ll try to be as prepared as possible.”

Presti famously showed up at Durant’s doorstep the minute he was eligible for an extension last time, and he said of possibly doing the same thing this time, “You know, again, I think we haven’t really even transitioned to that level of planning. I think as I said earlier, the first thing is reflecting on the year that we had. We started the year saying we really want to stay present. We really want to enjoy the year as it unfolds, not think so much about what might have happened previously, what could happen in the future. I think we’re still a little bit in that mode, and I think deservedly so.

“But all of those things, the actual conversation and things of that nature, that’ll take its place naturally. Again, like we’ve been with this player for quite a while, and the way I personally choose to look at it is we’ve got to take a step back and realize how incredible, how fortunate are we that Kevin Durant has been one of the first players to ever wear a Thunder uniform. He’s played for eight years in Oklahoma City. Kids that were six years old watching the Thunder and now 14 years old, and they’ve watched this evolution of Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka and company through their adolescence, and now we have the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about what looks like an incredibly bright future together. I think you have to embrace that. You have to really lean into that in an excited way without knowing what the outcome might be. But I don’t see any reason to shy away from that.

“I think we should be really excited about recognizing the relationship, and as I said before, it’s a continuation of a dialogue that’s been going on for eight, nine years, and it’s an opportunity to talk about what the future might hold for us together.”

Presti said of the season Durant had, considering the fact that he was coming off an injury that cost him most of the previous year, “Well, I thought the season he had was just remarkable. One, returning from injury, which none of us can really understand unless you’ve been an NBA player that’s missed a large amount of time due to injury and come back. I’m just really happy for him because I thought he had a lot of fun during the year, and I watched him this time last year in a pool. I remember when he started to just start walking – like it was celebratory – to go from that to having maybe his most efficient year. I thought the way he handled his affairs, as I said before, I’ve never been more impressed with somebody in that regard.

“He allowed the team to really enjoy a wonderful season. He showed tremendous care for the franchise, and that’s something that can’t be overlooked.”

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