OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s a good bet Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti always means what he says.
There’s a purpose and a place he wants to take his audience with his words. None are wasted and he does not deal in deceit.
That doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth all the time either.
Indeed, at his Thursday morning press conference, addressing the end of the world as we’ve known it, Presti said of the comings and goings nobody saw coming this offseason “… we were probably going to be faced with that scenario probably after the following season.”
It doesn’t ring true.
Because why sign Russell Westbrook to the mother of all maximum deals through 2022-2023 and Paul George to his own max deal through 2021-2022 if you suspect your day of reckoning would nonetheless come in the summer of 2020?
Scared money may not make money, but dumb money is still dumb.
Yet, if Presti was trying to say an offseason like this one would hit the Thunder eventually, they had to be prepared for it, ready to exploit it as an opportunity, jump quickly into what comes next rather than be left reeling by the end of an era … well, that’s a bigger truth and, by the way, that’s what OKC’s doing.
So, there’s that.
Presti means what he says, but he can spin you, too.
Also, he finally addressed the possibility of the Thunder tanking and finally said, in so many words, it wasn’t happening.
And, though he addressed a myriad of things — from Paul George’s “discontent” to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s potential to the difference between “repositioning,” “replenishing” and “rebuilding” — that should be takeaway of the day.
Presti was asked about tanking early during his media session and went long on the future, yet whiffed on the present.
“Our vantage point and our view is always going to be to create the most and longest runway for success and not to shortcut that,” he said. “And that our decisions from this point on are going to be based on generating as much value for the organization as possible so that we at some point can recreate an elongated period of success like we’ve been fortunate to have.”
Perhaps he thought that would be reassuring. Instead, it sounded like “blah, blah, blah, we’re not going to win very many games for a while.”
Then he was asked if he’d be thrilled to win more than 50 games next season or have more ping-pong balls in the draft lottery sweepstakes. At long last, he actually was reassuring.
“That’s the unique situation that we kind of set upon, is that we’re able to accomplish a lot of the value generation that’s absolutely imperative for this franchise going forward (through) these transactions,” he said. “Simultaneously, we’re also able to get good players … And so we feel good about where we’re positioned.
“But I would also tell you that we’re not looking at this in one-season increments. Obviously, the most important season is next season, and we want to maximize this season the best we can.”
Was that so hard?
Until that moment, it was as if Presti worried Thunder Nation might be more concerned he’d taken his eye off the future in the name of the present, not realizing it’s the opposite, that as the Thunder begin painting the mural on their next 10-year canvas, perhaps the city doesn’t have to be stuck with a team racing to the bottom.
He even talked about Chris Paul not only being in OKC for an entire season, but being very good for an entire season.
“I think he’s going to have a really good year for us,” Presti said, “and I do think he’s excited about the opportunity to have an impact on our team.”
Oh, and he expects Andre Roberson back on the court opening night and as good as Gilgeous-Alexander was as a Clipper rookie, thinks “he’s not really even scratching the surface.”
So, you want to know what Presti really did Thursday?
He offered permission to be optimistic again, to believe.
He said the rebuild hadn’t really begun and, think about it long enough and it kind of makes sense.
Not too far down the road, there will be a young core again, likely with Gilgeous-Alexander leading from the point and a couple or three of the 15 first-round picks the Thunder own over the next seven drafts and maybe a really good veteran center by the name of Steven Adams.
By that time, Paul and Danilo Gallinari may not just be done in Oklahoma City but done with basketball. They’re not spring chickens.
Also, play the cards right and Oklahoma City has much to look forward to.
That and the Thunder can be pretty good right now and there’s no reason not to be.
Finally, the guy who runs everything said so.
CLAY HORNING is a sports columnist for CNHI. Follow him on Twitter at @clayhorning.
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