The Thunder had a 13-41 record and was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak when general manager Sam Presti worked a trade to get guard Thabo Sefolosha from the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 19, 2009.
The move didn't exactly seem warm and fuzzy to the 24-year-old from Switzerland.
“At first I was like, ‘Wow, where am I going?' ” Sefolosha admitted with a chuckle. “But then I got to meet the team. I got to meet the guys, see the work ethic, see the mindset of everybody. Even though we had a bad record, the spirit was still high. People were working on their game, getting better. I saw really quickly the potential of the team.”
The Bulls had obtained shooting guard John Salmons from the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 18, 2009. The next day, Presti obtained Sefolosha from Chicago for a first-round draft choice in that summer's draft.
Three weeks earlier, OKC had lost Desmond Mason for the season to a hyperextended right knee. Mason was a 6-foot-7, 224-pound perimeter defender with a very similar build and mindset to the 6-foot-7, 215-pound Sefolosha.
“It was good timing for us,” Presti said of obtaining Sefolosha. “It's like any trade. It's mostly timing and situational. At that point in time, it just so happened Chicago made a significant transaction and didn't have a lot of roster space. I know they valued him (Sefolosha) greatly and it happened to work out for us.”
Eight months later, Sefolosha agreed to a four-year, $13.8-million extension with the Thunder that runs through the 2013-14 season. With an annual salary ranging from $3.25 million to $3.9 million, the deal seems like a steal for a veteran starter on a championship-caliber team.
“We don't really look at things like that,” Presti said when asked if he considered Sefolosha to be one of the league's best bargains. “What we look at is how people fit within our team, fit within our organization. It's more about contributions people make within the framework of our team. We know we probably have several players who would have several opportunities with other teams that they probably don't have here.”