Stillwater News Press


September 26, 2012

Thunder GM wants to build off of trip to NBA Finals

OKLAHOMA CITY — Sam Presti is a fan of music documentaries. When Oklahoma City’s general manager met with the media Wednesday he talked about how his offseason included getting addicted to watching VH1’s Classic Album, which included Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Pink Floyd’s The Wall .

That may seem like a strange topic for the GM of the defending Western Conference Champion to discuss on the eve of the start of training camp. But for Presti, who likes to learn how great albums are put together and the decisions that go into it, it’s appropriate since he’s trying to put together his own masterpiece in the Thunder.

“I think first and foremost we have to take a real building mentality to what it is that we establish for ourselves as a base this season,” Presti said. “We’re going to have to start from zero. That’s how we’ve done it every year, and that’s served us well.”

The Thunder are coming off its first trip to the NBA finals since moving to Oklahoma City. It would be easy to fall prey to the expectations that will undoubtedly surround the team and start adding high-priced free agents. But Presti said that is not the organization’s way.

“We have to think big, but we have to build small and maintain the consistency with how we have approached things in the past,” Presti said. “I also think what is important is that we continue to embrace our identity, continue to be consistent with who we are, not try to get outside ourselves and be something that isn’t repeatable for us and isn’t consistent with us. That’s going to be an important thing for us going into the season and I think in seasons beyond that, to embrace who we are and what we’re about.”

With training camp starting Tuesday, the biggest question Presti has on his plate is what is going to happen to all-star reserve James Harden when his current rookie contract comes to an end next season. Not wanting to have the same issues players like LeBron James and Dwight Howard caused their former teams, it’s presumed they will want to take care of Harden before Oct. 31. Otherwise, he will become a restricted free agent next summer.

With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka already getting their long term deals, there may not be enough money for Oklahoma City to extend Harden’s contract at the amount he can get on the open market.

Presti, who says he doesn’t talk directly to players about contracts, knows how important Harden is to the franchise, but wouldn’t say whether the team would go over the salary cap in order to resign the Olympian.

“I wish I could tell you how it would end up,” Presti said. “There are certain realities that we face, and there are some inherent challenges we face. I don’t feel comfortable talking about limitations and things we ultimately have to decide on. But we’re making a commitment to try to put a competitive team on the floor. But we have to do the right thing for the organization.”

Even though the road back to the NBA Finals got seemingly tougher with moves the Lakers made in the offseason by acquiring Howard and Steve Nash, Presti said other teams will not dictate the Thunder’s maneuvers.

“We can’t take anything for granted,” Presti said. “We’re not entitled to anything. We’ve never taken that approach. I think we’d be doing a disservice to ourselves, and probably being inconsistent if we were to take any kind of approach other than coming in and just doing our jobs, understanding what works for us and putting in an honest day’s work and going home.”

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