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Despite success, Thunder must stay humble, hungry

Thunder general manager Sam Presti said during his season-ending news conference that the team can't allow itself to be complacent going forward.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 27, 2011

“There's a collected recognition that has started to take place with our team about the things that separate good teams from high-performing teams,” Presti said. “And when our players start to recognize those things I think that's definitely a sign of movement.”

Presti praised coach Scott Brooks for his development as well. By mid-season, Brooks showed an ability to be more flexible, juggling his lineups more often and going from a nine-man rotation to playing 10 players.

“I think Scott deserves a lot of credit,” Presti said. “He was incredibly resourceful.”

Presti, citing team policy, declined to discuss the possibility of a contract extension for Brooks, who is entering the final year of his deal. At the end of the 2008-09 season, Brooks signed a two-year deal with a third-year option. It's possible that Presti decides to wait until after the 2011-12 season before making a decision on Brooks' future to allow more time for evaluation.

“I think Scotty did a great job,” Presti said. “He's continued to push our team forward … He continues to drive himself to improve … He wants to come back better. That's one of the qualities we like about him. That's why he's a great fit for our organization.”

When asked about assistant coaches, Presti said a potential change with the remaining staff is Brooks' decision.

The biggest order of business for Presti this summer, or whenever a potential lockout is lifted, is re-signing point guard Russell Westbrook. The third-year point guard exceeded all expectations and developed into an All-Star, a Second-Team All-NBA member and, by most accounts, a top-five point guard in 2010-11.

“We're looking forward to having those conversations at the appropriate time,” Presti said.

Decisions must also be made on shooting guard Daequan Cook, a restricted free agent, and center Nazr Mohammed, an unrestricted free agent. Presti said he liked what Cook did this season, which was convert a career-high 42.2 percent of his 3-pointers despite limited and, at times, erratic playing time.

Mohammed, meanwhile, could return as a veteran presence. But the Thunder has two potential backup plans in youngsters Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich. Mohammed, however, has said he would like to return.

“Naz did a great job for us. He really did,” Presti said. “One thing you're always looking for in players, and I think people, is for them to be dependable and reliable. And he's both of those things. We knew that before he arrived. That's who he is. He's a true pro. We liked what he did for us. At the appropriate time, we'll sit down and see where he is with things and have a conversation.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
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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