Thunder general manager Sam Presti knew exactly what he was stepping into when he initiated this rebuilding process. He knew there wouldn’t be a quick fix for this project and, frankly, he wasn’t interested in attempting one. Since taking the job in 2007, Presti has approached this task with the belief that to do it right called for patience and prudence through the rough times. That’s why, crazy as it sounds, the Thunder’s current seven-game losing streak and NBA-worst 1-9 record can be viewed as growing pains that ultimately will help put Oklahoma City on the road leading to its desired destination. Skeptical? The proof is found over in Atlanta and New Orleans and up in Portland. Presti is mimicking those franchises’ building blueprints. The method typically takes three to four years of pain before teams even sniff the playoffs. But the payback is sustained success. While any Thunder fan from Pocola to the Panhandle can see this team would be much improved with the addition of a shooter or two, Presti won’t be quick to pull the trigger on a deal simply to tack on a few more wins. Instead, the plan is to provide the team’s young core of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, Robert Swift and Johan Petro ample time to play together and learn the NBA’s ins and outs. The Hornets did just that with Chris Paul, David West and Tyson Chandler. The Trail Blazers did it with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw. And the Hawks took their lumps with Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Josh Childress. The Hawks won a franchise-worst 13 games in 2004-05 before snapping an eight-year playoff drought last year and returning this season poised for another postseason run. The Hornets, after winning a franchise-worst 18 games in 2004-05, made the playoffs last season after three years of rebuilding. Only now, five years into the rebuilding process, has Portland become this year’s trendy pick as the team on the rise with all of its young stars 24 or younger. This is Year 2 of OKC’s rebuilding following a franchise-worst 20 wins a year ago. Durant, Green, Westbrook, Swift and Petro are all 22 or younger. As the losses pile up this season, Thunder fans should remember those two things — and the way the Hawks, Hornets and Blazers built.
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A look at the improvement of Atlanta, New Orleans and Portland.
→When: 7 tonight →Where: Ford Center →TV: FOX Sports Oklahoma (Cox. 37) →Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM. Probable starters