Thunder/NBA: Thunder appears ready for tough challenge

NBA schedule will keep Oklahoma City busy from now until the end of the season
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: December 7, 2011
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After a chaotic offseason, Thunder general manager Sam Presti and those around him vow to remain calm.

“You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable sometimes,” Presti said Wednesday.

The NBA's offseason quest to reach a new collective bargaining agreement brought a 149-day lockout, no training camps, elimination of the entire preseason schedule and a 16-game reduction to the 2011-12 regular season.

If the Thunder can keep its wits while all others are losing theirs, perhaps the fourth-year franchise can live up to its third consecutive season of loftier expectations — from becoming a playoff team, to division champion, to conference finalist to potential NBA finalist.

OKC finished 55-27 last season, won the Northwest Division by five games, secured home court advantage the first two playoff rounds and advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where it lost to the eventual world champion Dallas Mavericks.

While many teams have roughly half their roster filled because of unsigned draft choices and a pending free-agency process, the Thunder is considered among the league's elite.

OKC has only two roster vacancies, and those will be filled with the expected signatures of first-round draft choice Reggie Jackson and restricted free agent Daequan Cook.

No matter who wears a Thunder uniform, they become part of the Presti Plan, a blueprint that apparently remains unedited even when the season starts on Christmas Day rather than Nov. 1 as originally scheduled.

“In my conversations with (head coach) Scott (Brooks) and the front office team, we are all in agreement that despite this being a shortened year, we have to take the same approach,” Presti said. “We have to continue to be a team, an organization that grinds out our work every day without expectation or entitlement.

“We want to continue to evolve as a team that has the quality of the highest-performing teams in pro sports. Things like great communication, attention to detail, execution, recognizing situations within the year and within the game and making the necessary sacrifices to be an elite team.”

The new CBA has yet to be approved by the players' union and the NBA Board of Governors. Once the new agreement is drafted, approved and signed, training camps will be begin and unsigned players will be allowed to endorse new deals. All this will commence Friday.