Pendergraph is his former 6-foot-10 teammate who gave blood, sweat and perhaps tears to the Sun Devils’ program for four years. The team’s second-leading scorer did just fine on his own merit, becoming the 31st overall pick, the first selection in the second round.
“We just feel like James Harden is our type of guy,” Presti said, one-minute, 23 seconds after sitting down for his 11 p.m. press conference.
So the next time you wonder why Presti passed on Rubio, the 18-year-old sensation, remember the Thunder way. Remember how Rubio’s buyout raised red flags. Remember how his camp made demands about where the teenager would and would not play and for which teams he would and would not workout with or even visit. Remember Rubio’s father threatening, not one hour after the draft, that Rubio would remain overseas rather than report to Minnesota, the team that took him fifth. Remember that the final decision had much less to do with incumbent point guard Russell Westbrook’s feelings and everything to do with this organization’s feelings on outside noise.
“When you come down to it, you’ve got to make the best decision for your basketball team,” Presti said. “It’s not necessarily a comment on Ricky Rubio, but more a statement about James Harden. We really feel like he’s someone that’s going to add value to our team. He really fits what we’re trying to accomplish and adds a need that we’re looking to address as well.”
Nine minutes, 24 seconds later, Presti elaborated, explaining why he not only chose Harden third but was aggressive in his approach of standing pat instead of sliding down to try to get him lower.
“The most important thing for us is — and this is how we’ve approached the draft in the past — if there’s somebody there that you feel like is a good fit for you and your organization and the core values that you have, then you take them if that’s the person you feel like is the best person, the best player. That’s just our philosophy. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the overriding one or the correct one.”
It was the philosophy in 2008 with Westbrook. Worked out well most would say.
And in the end, after nearly six weeks of speculation and smokescreens, Presti and the Thunder got their man in 2009.
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