Sam Presti is 31, which seems young for an NBA general manager until you see the ages of his cornerstone players. Jeff Green is 21. Kevin Durant 19. Russell Westbrook 19. Chris Wilcox, who seems like he's been around forever, is all of 25. Young GM. Young team. Young city, which joined the major-league fraternity last week when the Sonics pulled up stakes in Seattle. Appears to be a perfect fit. "We're thrilled,” Presti said Thursday at the Skirvin Hotel when introduced to the Oklahoma City media. "We think this is an unbelievable opportunity for our team.” Same goes for OKC. Most fans, if given the choice, would have voted to bring back the Hornets. But the Not-the-Sonics will do just fine, thank you very much, and Oklahoma will fall hard for this team. It will be love at first sight. "I'm not sure there could have been a better place for our team,” Presti said. What else is he going to say? Wished we had stayed in Seattle? Was hoping for Vegas? Presti is PR savvy, but what he says rings true. OKC and the Durantulas (thank you, Dan Patrick) is an excellent pairing. A fan base that doesn't expect immediate results and will embrace its new heroes with an innocent freshness. A young team that asks only to be given a little time and for fans to replicate the wild Hornets atmosphere displayed at the Ford Center those two temporary NBA seasons. Presti's yearlings can grow accustomed to the NBA right along with Oklahoma City. OKC's fans can make like a college game and cheer their lungs out, and the Not-the-Sonics who matter will think this is the way it's supposed to be, having just left the campus scene. All the while, Durant and Co. grow fangs and OKC proves the Hornet phenomenon was no temporary fluke. "Part of our vision for this team is closely linked with the community,” Presti said. "Great values, hard workers, persistence, resiliency. We're invigorated by the prospect of seeing our basketball team grow with this community.” Not-the-Sonics chairman Clay Bennett has laid low since announcing the move last week, and he's been tight-lipped for two years while dancing with Seattle politicians. But Presti gave a glimpse into Bennett's vision for the future. "With a young core of guys, coming into a new franchise, each step we take we'll be able to do so together,” Presti said. "The way Clay feels about our team and his passion for the city, it seemed something that could run parallel.” Presti comes from a place where the city embraced the team, the team embraced the city and the two are forever linked. And no, I don't mean Seattle. In San Antonio, hard football country, the Spurs have become the city icon, with solid citizens David Robinson and Tim Duncan and four of the last 10 NBA championships. Presti, professionally adopted by Spurs masterminds Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford, saw the San Antonio marriage fully bloom. "We're not trying to be the Spurs,” Presti said. "Not trying to be San Antonio. We want to develop our own identity, develop our own way of doing things.” Fine. But the comparisons are inevitable, and just as San Antonio grew into a nationally recognized world-class city while its basketball team did the same, Oklahoma City and the Durantulas take off together. OKC embarks on major-league status with amazing momentum. A revitalized downtown, a strong economy the envy of much of America and remarkable cooperation between the public and private sector. The Not-the-Sonics embark with a promising young roster, extra first-round draft picks coming soon and loads of payroll-cap space. Seattle won just 20 games last season, but there's every reason to believe this team will get better and better as those 19-year-olds move through their 20s. "It's exciting,” Presti said. "It really is. I keep using that term, but can't come up with a better one.” Oh well. Maybe when he's older.
Sam Presti, GM of Oklahoma City's NBA franchise, speaks during a news conference Thursday at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. by NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN