HOUSTON — Sam Presti stood in front of a flock of television cameras and microphones Friday and took question after question about the future of his All-Star point guard.
As he discussed the disheartening news that Russell Westbrook will be sidelined indefinitely with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee, Presti spoke with unwavering confidence.
“Our team as a whole,” Presti said shortly after expressing his disappointment for Westbrook, “we've got a resilient group of players. We've got a lot of character in that locker room and a group that enjoys playing together and has been through some adversities over the last several years that they've been together. So we'd expect them to adjust, come together and have different guys step in and play well collectively.”
Suddenly, that has become the biggest challenge currently facing the Thunder.
Only 36 hours were available to the Thunder from the time the organization learned of Westbrook's devastating setback Friday morning until tip-off for Saturday night's Game 3 at Houston. And only a handful of those hours were spent lamenting the loss.
“This is part of basketball,” Presti said. “It's part of sports. It's part of competition. We accept that. We don't enjoy that but we accept that.”
The Thunder never has been an excuse team.
Not during the 3-29 start in the inaugural season. Not when the Tyson Chandler trade was nixed. Not when Jeff Green was traded midseason. Not when playing the role of David against the Goliath-like defending champion Lakers in the first postseason appearance. Not when an NBA referee botched a last-second call in Utah and potentially cost the Thunder a pivotal win. And not when last year's Finals appearance fell short.
And so the Thunder must do it once more, this time minus one of its two best players.