OKLAHOMA CITY — Thunder general manager Sam Presti wrote in today’s edition of the Oklahoman to speak on recent events and the path moving forward.
It was the first time Presti spoke publicly since the late hours of June 20th following the NBA draft. That evening was awkward to say the least. Oklahoma City drafted Darius Bazley in the first round. But thanks to silly NBA rules, Presti couldn’t actually talk about the Thunder’s lone draft pick due to his acquisition coming in the form of a trade. Instead, the media who gathered at the Thunder ION facility asked about the team moving forward with Russell Westbrook and Paul George following another first-round disappointment.
That seems so long ago now.
Times have changed and will continue to change. Presti used the platform of the state’s largest paper to promote the message that, “the Oklahoma City Thunder is transitioning into a new phase” but not before acknowledging recent events.
“Over the last few weeks, we have parted ways with foundational players — people who have represented our city to the world, who have sacrificed for us and flourished on our behalf. Although this has been painful, I also believe that — given the circumstances — it was necessary.”
The overall message from the piece — other than the two paragraphs dedicated to reminding Oklahoma City that it is a great place — is that tough times are ahead. But that’s the surface level. Presti is smart and knows his 11-year old fanbase is now experienced and no longer culpable to the dream-like haze of simply having a professional basketball team to root for.
Make no mistake, this is an advertisement. Presti doesn’t insult your intelligence by saying silly things like, “Playoffs or bust this year!” No, he tells it like it is.
“It will take us time, now, to reposition, replenish and then ultimately rebuild our team,” Presti said. “Things will inevitably get harder from here. At some point during this transition, we may not have the type of team you’ve been used to.”
This is the commercial for the future. Times will be hard. Anytime a franchise loses a star — and OKC has now had that happen three times since July 2016 — things must change. For the first time, however, there is no in-house Plan B as there was when Kevin Durant walked away. This will take time. Presti understands this and took this opportunity to remind you, the fan, that this is all a part of… you guessed it. The process.
Presti does provide hope. He invokes a little Fox Mulder by saying, “the next great Thunder team is out there somewhere.” Then he invokes himself by reminding that, “it will take time to seize and discipline and ultimately sustain.”
What has grabbed headlines early on has been Presti’s mention of the disadvantages of working in the NBA in a small market.
“Despite our city’s rapid growth, Oklahoma City remains the second-smallest market in the NBA,” Presti wrote. “While this brings many benefits, it also poses strategic challenges. Given the way the league’s system is designed, small market teams operate with significant disadvantages. There is no reason to pretend otherwise.”
Presti doesn’t go further — thankfully, because the “small markets have it hard” topic is a tired one. But this mention does play into the overall message that tough times are still ahead. Even the advertisement-angle welcomes the small market comment.
This is not just a tough time for an NBA franchise. This is extraordinarily tough for the Thunder, who have enjoyed 11 years of top-end success. Presti understands this and wants to now make this the mantra of the franchise going forward.
One more thing. Presti mentioned a few times that tough times were “ahead” and how things will “inevitably get harder.”
So get used to Chris Paul, Thunder fans. He’s the point guard of the present for the time being.
Brady Trantham has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Franchise since April 2018 and for Thunder Digest since 2016. He hosts a Thunder podcast with Madysson Morris “OKC-82 Podcast” which can be found on all podcast outlets, and is a featured co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12, in addition to weekly guest spots on “The Franchise Drive” on Tuesdays and “The Franchise Morning Show” on Wednesdays. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports