Sam Presti went after at least two shooters in the offseason that would have been a big boost to the Thunder this season.
One was Mike Miller. The other was Dorell Wright.
Both turned down offers from the Thunder GM, leaving Oklahoma City without a much-needed shooting presence and, consequently, turning the Thunder into a below-average 3-point shooting squad.
Miller signed with Memphis, where he started his career and still has close connections with the community. Wright accepted a two-year, $6 million deal with Portland. The Thunder is believed to have offered Wright only the veteran minimum, or a starting salary of roughly $1.4 million in Wright’s case.
In a Q&A with The Oklahoman, Wright discussed his free agency last summer, what it’s like being recruited by the Thunder and why he ultimately chose the Blazers over the Thunder.
Q: What was the free agency process like for you last summer?
A: My main goal was to find somewhere where I fit in. The three teams that were really coming at me, well the main two teams that were really coming at me the hardest, were OKC and (Portland). My whole focus was somewhere I could fit in, a team I could grow with, not just any team and be there one year or two years before moving to the next team. I was just looking for someone I could grow with, guys I could play with for multiple years. It just worked out here. Better for the family and better for myself as far as a business move. I felt like either team would have been a great fit. I really wanted to come (to OKC) bad, just to get the opportunity to play with (Russell Westbrook). Me and him went to high school together. To have one of your friends from high school on the same team as you, that don’t happen often. So I was really looking forward to that. But it just didn’t really work out as far as on the business side. Maybe down in the future, I could probably play with Russ. But I’m pretty happy with the decision I made to come here to Portland.
How tough of a decision was that when you were going through it?
It was definitely tough, because I knew what (the Thunder) was capable of. I knew they were a top team in the NBA. And then when I looked at the roster of Portland, it was a team that was missing just a few pieces. They had the starting five locked down. I just felt they need more guys coming off the bench to be a good team. Exactly what I thought happened.
When you’re capable of shooting like you are, do you look at a guy like Kevin Durant or a guy like Russell Westbrook and get excited about the potential of what you could do next to guys like that?
Yeah, man. They’re guys that need so much attention when they got the ball in their hands, and they’re two good playmakers at that. I think that’s one of the things they both don’t get too much positive (attention) on is how good of playmakers they are. They’re known for being good scorers and things like that. But they’re also good playmakers. So me having the opportunity to play with them two dudes definitely would have been fun. But I’m getting the same here playing with (Damian Lillard), playing with (Mo Williams), playing with (LaMarcus Aldridge), people that need so much attention when they have the ball in their hands. We’re playing with so many guys that are unselfish that we’re giving up a good shot to get a great shot. So when you’ve got guys like that that that’s moving the ball, sharing the ball, it’s making it a lot easier as well.
When you guys came in here the first time, I saw Sam walk up to you and you guys kind of shared a moment with some words. What was his message to you coming back in here, and what’s your relationship like?
Man, you always want to keep those type of people on your good side. I think he did a great job as far as hosting myself and my family. And just showing the family atmosphere that they do here in Oklahoma City, you can only respect that because not most organizations are family-oriented. I came through the Miami system, and they’re very family oriented. So I know what type of team and what type of organization it is when it’s family first. I respect that about the organization. It’s not like that everywhere. They showed myself, my girlfriend, my son a great time when we came down here. We got a chance to see the city, and it wasn’t just about me. Everything we did, it was all three of us. I respect them for that, and I got to pay respect to the people I respect.
Could you offer any insight into what the recruiting process is like with the Thunder? How did they recruit you and show you around?
Just taking us around historical places here, like the Oklahoma City bombing museum. We didn’t get a chance to do the tour because we were on short time. But just being able to see that, and him telling us how much they are involved with things that are going on here; different restaurants that’s famous, showing us the facilities. Definitely top five in the NBA as far as facilities and things like that. It’s one of those places you get the type of vibe where guys want to come here and want to get better because all the things that they provide for you each and every day. And Portland, they’re doing a great job with that. They’ve made a lot of different upgrades this summer. When you do stuff like that, that helps more guys to come and play for your team. If you don’t have facilities and different things around that can’t catch your attention, like you don’t want anyone to be there, you’re not going to get any free agents. They were just in a tough position as far as on the business side. So they couldn’t really do what Portland did for me as far as on the contract end. But the things that they showed me and things like that is something I’ll never forget in case I do have to go through the free agent process again. I know what they can offer, and that’s something that’s always going to stick in my head and the type of city this place is.