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OKC Thunder remains a work in progress

General manager Sam Presti says his goal is not just to build a team, but a franchise in Oklahoma City. Wednesday's opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, provides the blueprint for what the Thunder wants to look like.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 26, 2013

Close your eyes, picture an Oklahoma City Thunder logo and ask yourself what comes to mind.

Kevin Durant? Russell Westbrook?

Winning, perhaps?

All three have defined the Thunder's existence.

But they're not all Oklahoma City wants to be about.

“When we arrived in Oklahoma in 2008,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti, “we did so with a vision to ultimately build, enhance and sustain a team, and also construct an organization that had the endurance to accept the various cycles and challenges that exists in professional sports.”

Though Year 6 is underway, Presti says that goal remains far from complete.

“I always talk about the fact that we're building a franchise and not just a team,” Presti said at his season-ending news conference last summer. “The cement is certainly not dry for the identity for the Thunder.”

There's a franchise invading Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday night, though, that represents a shining example of what dry cement looks like. It's the San Antonio Spurs, a model of consistency and an organization many have said the Thunder has looked to emulate.

The Spurs embody all that the Thunder seeks to establish as identifiable tenets.

Resiliency. Stability. Longevity.

Reliability. Humility. Community.

“We want to ensure that our identity, when we reach the 10-year anniversary of the Thunder in Oklahoma, is consistent with the values set forth in Year 1,” Presti said.

“This will take discipline and resolve, and while we have achieved some success to date, we are still very early in our existence as an organization. We strongly believe that we are capable of building an organization of great endurance and civic pride in Oklahoma City, but I don't think we can assume that something that meaningful and delicate can be achieved in five years.”

San Antonio has earned its reputation by succeeding on and off the court for the last 25 years. The Spurs have had quality ownership and quality management. They developed a philosophy and stuck to their plan. They committed to high-character players and community-based initiatives.

In a league that's ever-changing, the Spurs have managed to be the rare constant.

That's what they're known for as much, if not more, than their four NBA championships.

“To be able to accomplish the goal of sustainable success, you have to demonstrate that your organization possesses the trait of emotional resiliency,” Presti said. “Success is not linear, and lasting success is often the product of the ability to recover from the unforeseen events and adversities that exists in sports. You have to have the resolve, optimism and belief to continue your march forward, and I think our players have demonstrated that over time.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
Assist Editor/ NBA Coordinator
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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