Sam Presti on Sunday shot down speculation that the Thunder could target Phil Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy for the team's coaching duties should a contract extension with Scott Brooks not come together.
“To me, it's rubbish,” said Presti, the Thunder's general manager, when asked about recent reports listing the two former coaches as possibilities.
Brooks' contract expires Saturday. But the two sides postponed negotiations while the team was competing in the NBA Finals. Now that the season has concluded, Presti called Brooks' contract the organization's top priority.
And, again, Presti stressed during his season-ending news conference with reporters how valuable he believes Brooks has been in helping to build the Thunder.
“As we've said before, Scotty is an integral part of our organization and critical to our success,” Presti said. “And we value him greatly. We're looking forward to having those conversations, as he said, in the coming days. But he's been integral to our success. We wouldn't be in the situation that we're in without him and his commitment to the organization and to our players.”
Jackson, an 11-time championship coach, is now retired but has said he'd be open to returning to coach the right team. Van Gundy, who Brooks played for during the 1996-97 season, is now an analyst for ESPN.
PLEISS SIGNS IN SPAIN
Tibor Pleiss, a 7-foot-1 German center who the Thunder acquired on draft night in 2010, has signed with the Spanish club Caja Laboral.
Pleiss was the 31st overall pick who, for a time, appeared to be joining the Thunder for next season. Instead, Pleiss, 22, reportedly penned a four-year contract in Spain and will remain overseas to continue his development.
The contract contains standard buyout options, which could free Pleiss to join the Thunder before his contract expires with Caja Laboral.
“We think it's great for him,” Presti said. “I think he's only going to improve as a player by playing there. We're very encouraged by his development. But I think the decision for him was to continue to play in Europe and give himself an opportunity to improve so that when he comes to the NBA he'll be ready to contribute. And we support that.”
PERKINS DOWNPLAYS GROIN INJURY
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins acknowledged Sunday that he played with a partially torn groin throughout parts of the postseason, but he said the injury wasn't much of an issue since the second round.
“My groin hasn't bothered me since about the Lakers series,” Perkins said. “It's gotten a whole lot better. It's probably been about a month and a half now. It feels a whole lot better. It won't affect me (this summer) at all.”
Perkins said the injury will not require surgery before adding he will take about a week to relax and allow his groin, as well as other minor injuries, to fully heal before resuming basketball workouts.
Asked why he played through the injury, Perkins said he wanted to be there for his team.
“I just felt like what we had going was pretty special at the time,” Perkins said. “Having to go up against the Lakers, with all the big bodies that they had, I just knew that even if I wouldn't score a point or a rebound I just needed to be out there just throwing my body around…I just felt like I needed to be out there. I know a lot of the guys kind of follow off my lead and my scowl and just the way I approach the game…So I just wanted to go out there and just have a presence on the court just to show them that I'm out here with them and we ‘bout to do this.”
FAN SUPPORT INCOMPARABLE AND UNFORGETTABLE
At every level, members of the Thunder continue to be impressed with how the team has been received by fans.
Friday's scene at Will Rogers World Airport, where an estimated 4,000 fans welcomed the team back from Miami following its season-ending loss to the Heat in the NBA Finals, was one of the many special moments that have established Thunder fans as arguably the best in the league.
“Quite frankly, if we could shake everybody's hand that was at the airport...when we came back from Miami the other day, I sincerely mean we would,” Presti said. “Those people are incredibly passionate about our team, and we're incredibly passionate about them. And in Oklahoma City, that matters.”
Said Kevin Durant: “It was just amazing to see how many people supported us, especially after a loss. In most cities, that would never happen. That makes us want to get back there and try to win it for them even more.”
Lazar Hawyard, Reggie Jackson and Cole Aldrich will compete for the Thunder in the Orlando Summer League, which runs from July 9-13. Latavious Williams, the 48th overall pick in 2010 whose draft rights the Thunder acquired via a draft-night trade, also will compete for OKC.
By Darnell Mayberry