Thunder general manager Sam Presti addressed the media for the first time since draft night on Thursday morning. If you were looking for some reassurance about the state of the Thunder, you probably left this press conference more confused and skeptical about everything.
It’s not that Presti didn’t have anything to say, it’s the complete opposite. Presti had everything to say, so much so that his answers to important questions were confusing and in some cases sounded rehearsed.
Here are a few things that Presti left unclear.
The Paul George ordeal.
On Wednesday during George’s introductory press conference with the Clippers, George said, “It was a mutual thing between both of us that the time was up and we both had ideas of doing things differently.” Presti refuted that statement, stating that the Thunder didn’t have plans to move George this offseason, but did agree that the trade process wasn’t an “adversarial” one.
There are several reasons why George may have said what he said, so is their some truth to it? Did he and Presti possibly discuss, before George signed his max deal that he would willingly move him if things don’t go right? Regardless of the answer, these two had their time frames off. Presti seemed to think this topic may creep up after the 2019-2020 season, entering George’s last year of his contract, but George had other thoughts. Maybe that was George’s intention, but as he noticed the Thunder were plateauing, Kawhi Leonard’s request plus the opportunity to return home may have altered this projected timeframe immediately.
Sam’s comments about Billy Donovan’s ability to develop young players.
This was one of the more perplexing answers for Presti. In the aftermath of the franchise losing it’s cornerstone player, and another all-star in George, this is a clean slate, a way for the Thunder to redefine themselves. It seems obvious that even if not true, that Presti should have answered definitively in favor of Donovan in every way possible. Especially when it comes to the topic of developing talent (which he’s going to have to do with this very young roster). OKC’s average age as of now is 23.7 years old.
Presti bounced around the question for a few minutes and managed to fit in, “I do thing players have come along under his watch. I think Terrance is a good example of that. I think Jerami is a good example of that.” Which was a passive way of backing up Donovan.
The comments on the team rebuilding.
When asked about a Thunder rebuild, Presti had the opportunity to set the record straight because the Thunder fanbase are in a disturbed state of mind. He was, once again indirect, and mixed his words to keep everyone wondering.
He stated that the Thunder hasn’t started the rebuilding process (yet), which still leaves the door open for something to come. Instead of using the word rebuild, a word he was probably trying to avoid, Presti said, “First, we need to re-position the franchise, second, we need to replenish the franchise because we were in such a pursuit of maintaining the team that could get to the postseason year after year. I can’t sit here and tell you when that process will enact itself.”
While he was shutting down the notion of a rebuild, using unorthodox words like “re-position” and “replinish” made it sound like the Thunder are in the process of a rebuild, but didn’t want to freak fans out with the word ‘rebuild’.
Presti said he expects this process to be done organically.
Thursday was an opportunity for Presti to set the record straight, honor Westbrook, thank George and Jerami Grant for their contributions and to soothe the weary minds of Thunder fans. If anything he complicated things even moreso.
My guess is as good as yours on the first two topics. There’s something fishy about Presti’s lack of directness, and there’s an untold story for both topics that we don’t know, and probably won’t know. As for the rebuilding topic, I think Presti sugar-coated things. The Thunder are in a rebuild, but I don’t believe they are going to tank. They have a young, talented roster with a ton of assets that lay a rock-solid foundation for them to build something great sooner than later.
OKC has an opportunity to rebrand, but it won’t start with Presti being transparent.