Sam Presti is all too familiar with the joke.
The one in which the Thunder general manager joined Minnesota counterpart Kevin McHale as the league-wide punch line in last season’s sarcastic debate over which of the two should win executive of the year for their roles in rebuilding the Boston Celtics.
Presti traded Ray Allen from Seattle to Boston. McHale shipped Kevin Garnett from the Wolves to the Celtics.
The Celtics won the title. The Sonics and Wolves won the league’s second- and third-worst records, respectively.
One year later, both teams are trying to climb their way back to respectability, starting with tonight’s preseason matchup in Billings, Mont.
"When you look at a lot of teams in the league it doesn’t take as long as it might seem to turn it around,” said Nick Collison. "With a good young group, and I think Sam has done a really good job of making decisions that are going to set us up for the future, hopefully sooner rather than later we can have some success and start to build the tradition.”
Presti and McHale have taken a similar approach, using trades to acquire both young players for the future and veterans who can help win now. Both execs are also relying on high draft picks to speed their turnarounds. Presti selected guard Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall pick in June. McHale chose his UCLA teammate, forward Kevin Love, with the fifth selection.