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.
“Everybody's going to have to step up,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Not one person.”
Brooks on Friday held off on announcing which player would supplant Westbrook as the starter, though it presumably will be second-year guard Reggie Jackson. Veteran guard Derek Fisher is in play as well.
Either way, both will have big shoes to fill.
“We have good depth on our team,” said Kevin Durant. “Reggie is ready for the moment. He's been working his tail off, and we just got to rally behind him.”
Jackson has but two playoff games under his belt. He has never started an NBA game outside of the preseason. The most minutes he's played came three games ago, when he logged 36 minutes in the team's season finale against Milwaukee.
Then there's this: Jackson played just 19 minutes with the other four starters in the regular season, according to NBA.com/stats.
In 70 games this season, Jackson averaged 5.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He showed tremendous growth from his rookie season but has never experienced what he's about to step in Saturday.
“It's a challenge for our team, especially at this time,” Durant said. “But I have faith in myself and this team that I can go out there and lead us. Matter of fact, I know I can lead us.”
Durant doesn't have much choice.
But he, more than every other Thunder player outside of Nick Collison, has been down Adversity Ave.
Not quite like this, of course. But the blueprint for managing, coping, surviving, they've learned, really doesn't change. This is a Thunder organization that has erected and operated under one deep-rooted belief.
No matter what, life must go on.
And it will.