With Sam Presti in place, Thunder's future secure

By Darnell Mayberry, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: July 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm •  Published: July 22, 2010
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All told, it's a cast that many believe is now on the brink of championship contender status, especially considering the sun is setting on stars such as the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, Boston's Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, Phoenix's Steve Nash, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Houston's Yao Ming.

Perhaps Presti's most significant contribution to the Thunder, however, has not been in player acquisitions or salary cap construction but in defining and committing to a culture. Under Presti, the Thunder has adopted a defensive and unselfish mentality on the court, and players and coaches willingly regurgitate and carry out philosophies of teamwork, hard work and development. After only two seasons in Oklahoma City, the Thunder also is becoming a pillar in the community through steadfast involvement.

"I am extremely humbled to have the opportunity to continue our work here with the Thunder," Presti said in a release. "Oklahoma City is home for me. We have a committed group of players, excellent coaches led by Scott Brooks, and a support staff, in both basketball and business, that is integral to the vision of our organization and I am grateful for their partnership.

"I would also like to thank Clay for his support and trust. He has been central and unwavering in our efforts to build, enhance and sustain an elite franchise. We are fortunate to work with such a committed ownership group."

With Presti, Durant and Brooks in place — as well as a scary-good roster of young talent around them — the Thunder is now facing heightened expectations to rise up to the level of a championship contender. While the players must ultimately perform, the onus starts with Presti to continue making shrewd moves that will land the franchise there.

Green is eligible for a contract extension this summer but could be allowed to become a restricted free agent next summer, when Westbrook will be in line for an extension as well. Harden, Ibaka, Maynor and Byron Mullens are also due for extensions in 2012. It will be important for Presti to maintain some continuity but also avoid overspending to do so.

But because of recent restraint in free agency, the Thunder still is more than $6 million below the $58 million salary cap. That seemingly will allow the Thunder to re-sign its own players without ultimately having an uncontrollable payroll, while also acquiring additional pieces down the line in free agency.

Without flash, frills or fanfare, the Thunder has formed the makings of a fantastic future. And the rest of the league might not know what hit it when the puzzle is complete.

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