Kevin Durant safely is in the OK Corral for the next six seasons, and let's be honest. Sam Presti is the reason why.
Presti — granted, with plenty of help — has created a delightful culture for Thunder players and a promising future for the franchise. Durant was glad to sign on for as long as possible, even in small-market Oklahoma City. Keeping elite players is not uncommon in the NBA; getting them to commit to the maximum length is.
For all of Presti's many shrewd moves in three years as general manager of this now-prospering franchise, keeping Durant long-term ranks No. 1 on the list.
And what goes around comes around. Presti kept Durant. Now Durant can keep Presti.
Presti ranks as the NBA's hottest general manager. Perhaps not the best. R.C. Buford. Danny Ainge. Otis Smith. Daryl Morey. The out-of-work of Kevin Pritchard. Lots of good GMs out there.
But Presti is the hottest. Just 34 years old and in virtually no time took a floundering franchise, stripped it down and built it back into the envy of most of the league.
Now, of course, Presti's name is floated for every GM opening in the NBA. Portland, New Jersey, Phoenix.
Are franchises really coming after Presti? They're nuts if they don't. Not every organization in the NBA is the Clippers or the Grizzlies. A great many actually know what they're doing.
And any owner with a clue would be interested in hiring a young GM who seems to know how to build a roster and an environment, without taking shortcuts. A GM who seems almost gifted in his ability to trade you nothing for something and see three moves ahead.
Presti says he loves his job and that Oklahoma City is now home, and there's no reason to disbelieve him.
But having Durant in place as the Thunder cornerstone makes this job easy to love. Building around one of the NBA's five best players makes OKC seem even more homey.
Presti had a really good job, and now he's got an even better job. Challenging? Check. Trying to catch the Spurs and Mavericks, much less the Lakers, and keeping up with the Jazz and Nuggets and Blazers. That's got to be a rush for a ballteam-builder.
Doable? Absolutely, because of the superstar who landed in Presti's lap three summers ago and now is in the fold for the long haul.
Durant, because of his rare skills and apparently-rarer character, gives the Thunder a chance to take aim at that most elusive of team-sports hardware, the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
You build something from scratch into something promising and you don't want to bail before the ship hits port.
In June 2007, Thunder chairman Clay Bennett took a chance on the then-30-year-old Presti.
Now Presti ranks with Durant as the franchise's most valuable commodities.
Presti kept Durant here. Now Durant will keep Presti here.
Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.