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Sam Presti's plan bears NBA playoff fruit

Berry Tramel: The Thunder has become a postseason power thanks to the general manager's shrewd moves.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 21, 2011

Sam Presti hired P.J. Carlesimo — remember him? — in July 2007 to coach the Seattle SuperSonics.

P.J. lasted one year in Seattle and 13 games in Oklahoma City, where his Thunder went 1-12.

But Carlesimo could spot a man who knew what he was doing. That summer almost four years ago, Carlesimo talked about the boy wonder, the 30-year-old Presti, who had been handed the reins of an NBA franchise.

“Sam is the key to the whole thing,” Carlesimo said. “He's got a very definite plan of how he wants to build. He wants to play defense. He wants to have good people. So much of it is stuff he's seen first-hand that he knows works over the long haul.”

The Presti Plan. We heard about it when this team was in Seattle, we heard about it incessantly when this team moved to town and we heard about it when the Thunder stunk.

We don't hear about it so much anymore. But we should. The Thunder has been, with Miami and Dallas, the most impressive team in these NBA playoffs. The Thunder leads its series against Denver 2-0, and what we see is the Presti Plan bearing bountiful fruit.

Carlesimo had most of the plan down pat.

Defense first, and if anyone had forgotten, the trade for Kendrick Perkins reminded us all.

And good people. That doesn't mean all choir boys. That means staying off the police blotter and staying in the gymnasium. Example, you think Russell Westbrook is lucking in all those 3-pointers? No. He was a great athlete and a good player who in two short years has made himself into a great player.

But the Presti Plan to rebuild this franchise also included two more cornerstones.

* Don't overpay. A market like Oklahoma City can't sustain success unless the organization is fiscally responsible, and Presti has spent wisely. Clay Bennett and Co. opened the armored car for Kevin Durant, but the Thunder signed Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Perkins to reasonable contracts. That means the Thunder has a fighting chance to keep its budding stars.

* Don't panic. Don't cash in long-term viability for short-team thrills.

“It's not easy in this league,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks. “We've had some tough times. Some guys want to make a quick fix. He wasn't one who drifted down that path. He was focused on building a team that would last. We take pride in that.”

Presti always had the future in mind. Thinking ahead is how through trades he turned Johan Petro into Thabo Sefolosha and Kurt Thomas into Serge Ibaka. Managing the NBA payroll cap is how Presti signed Perkins to a $34.8-million, four-year contract extension after the Celtics couldn't offer near that kind of money.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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