To kick off the 2017-18 NBA season, Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti held his annual opening press conference this morning at the Integris Thunder Development Center.
To no surprise, the two biggest players in the Thunder’s brief ten-year history — Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant — were the topics of many questions. The latter of which drew attention for some regrettable tweets from a covert Twitter account in which he criticized his former coach and teammates.
“First of all, no one with the Oklahoma City Thunder have anything negative to say about Kevin Durant,” Presti said in his opening answer.
Presti also said that he had not received any communication from Durant since the tweets surfaced.
This has been consistent from the organization from the time Durant announced his departure via the Player’s Tribune article in July of 2016. While there were no tribute videos during the regular season, Presti and the Thunder franchise have been persistent in their desire to move forward but to pay Durant the respect he deserves when it became necessary.
It’s going to be a fun year for Thunder basketball.
Moving forward is exactly what the Thunder have done.
After a season which saw Oklahoma City enter the playoffs and bear witness to one of the more incredible single season runs in NBA history by an individual player, Presti spoke about how the changing and evolving roster is in an effort to take the next step in competing for a title.
“We are continuing to build the Thunder into something the city can be proud of,” Presti said. “Billy Donovan and his staff have been incredible this summer. I’m really excited to see them work with this group of guys. It’s going to be a fun year for Thunder basketball.”
While Westbrook’s extension and the ghost of Durant still loom large over the franchise, Paul George seemed to be a forgotten piece to the Thunder puzzle. Presti was quick to express his excitement for not only he to watch Geroge assimilate with the team but for the fans to see it all unfold.
“It is an unique opportunity to acquire a player like him,” Presti said. “He plays the right way and adds a rare dimension to the team.”
I’m excited for our fans to see him play –
Presti on Paul George
On separate occasions, Presti boasted about George the person rather than George the top-12 NBA player.
“He’s such a mature guy, there’s something about him that is sturdy and stable,” Presti said. He has a nice confidence about him. I’m excited for our fans to see him play.”
Westbrook’s uncertain future did not seem to phase or worry Presti, a man who rarely shows how he’s truly feeling with the media.
“We are just going to let that play out,” Presti answered when asked about Westbrook’s unsigned extension. “We have until the 16th of October to figure out what he will want to do, until then I don’t want to use any adjectives to describe what is going on.”
They compliment each other very well. They both have killer instincts about them.
-Presti on Russell Westbrook and George playing together
The addition of George will certainly give fans memories of when Westbrook and Durant roamed the court together in Thunder blue, but Presti was cautious to simply assume that due to Westbrook’s history with another top NBA player, that the chemistry between he and George would yield the same success.
“Obviously that is the goal, to get back to where we were,” Presti said. “But each player is different, each team is different so I don’t want to say that just because Westbrook played with a great player in Durant that it will be the same with George. But I will say that they both compliment each other really well. They both have killer instincts about them.”
The addition of George as well as Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson to go along with the development of other young players from last season appear to give Presti a level of excitement we aren’t as accustomed to seeing from the stoic-Bay Stater.
“We are committed to growth as an organization and I think we have a group of guys that can continue that growth,” Presti said.
Thunder Media Day and Training Camp begin early next week. The excitement of this year’s preseason is a far cry from where the franchise was a season ago.
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