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OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook signing proves Thunder owners are willing to spend

LUXURY TAX BOUND? — With Durant and Westbrook signed, the Thunder could be a luxury tax payer if it plans to keep James Harden and Serge Ibaka.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 22, 2012

Sam Presti spoke at length Sunday about his chief goal as the general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's one that hasn't changed in the franchise's four years of existence.

At a press conference announcing guard Russell Westbrook's contract extension, however, Presti offered a reminder that his main mission has been to build a team that, above all, has long term sustainability.

“Nothing really changes in terms of what our vision for this organization is,” Presti said. “This is just another step in that direction.”

Consider it the third of a five-step program.

Step one was inking Kevin Durant to a long-term deal.

Step two was acquiring and extending the contract of Kendrick Perkins.

Now comes the most critical part of the process.

Steps four and five will be re-signing James Harden and Serge Ibaka. They're now the most critical cogs to the franchise's ability to sustain success.

Many have wondered over the past two seasons how the Thunder could possibly retain its core, which quickly became cluttered with talented parts. But the picture finally is beginning to crystallize. And in between pre-written paragraphs praising Westbrook, Presti on Sunday provided the most telling answer as to how it will be done.

“Days like today are made possible because of our owner, Clay Bennett, who's shown unwavering support in our efforts to build and sustain an elite basketball organization,” Presti said. “We're fortunate to have an owner as committed as Mr. Bennett is.”

Translation: Bennett is prepared to dig deep. He and his partners who make up the Professional Basketball Club, LLC are primed to back up the Brinks truck to two more houses if need be and do what it takes to continue to compete.

That would mean this Thunder team could soon be headed into luxury tax territory. But when that day comes, it will be viewed as a justifiable business expense because the building blocks that have been put in place have been model pieces.

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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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