HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You know someone in Oklahoma City is walking away from this season with some hardware of some sort.
Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant won’t win the MVP, that’s a trophy that will find its way back to LeBron James.
But Thunder coach Scott Brooks has a good shot at Coach of the Year. And Thunder GM Sam Presti should be a lock for Executive of the Year.
To go from where the Thunder was just last season to where they are now remains one of the more remarkable turnarounds in sports that I can remember in recent years. They’re smacking around everybody, big boys and doormats alike. Just ask Kobe Bryant and the Lakers how rough things got last weekend in Oklahoma City:
The fact is, Presti just gets “it.” He’s not one of these guys preoccupied with seeing his own name in print (sorry Sam) and he’s also not the kind of guys that will make a stir when you see him.
He learned from some of the best, having come up the ranks in the Spurs organization. So he understands the intricacies of a championship organization and what it takes to build on that model.
But there’s a passage from an excellent story about the Thunder by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that illustrate why Presti is our favorite young exec, the best young executive in this sport and maybe any sport:
“In a downtown hotel lobby Friday, two hours before tipoff against the Lakers, I put Presti on the other end of a question he has heard at least a dozen times this season: What next? The Thunder (44-28) could wind up seeded anywhere from second to eighth in the Western Conference. However that works out, don’t expect any major departures from the plan Presti arrived in Seattle with three years ago.
Depending on what the cap is this summer, Presti will have about $12 million to spend. Don’t hold your breath. Oklahoma City was one of a handful of teams with cap space this season, and Presti opted to use only a smidgen to acquire backup point guard Eric Maynor from the Jazz. Maynor, the 20th pick in 2009, fills a need behind Westbrook and gets to grow up in the culture that Presti and Brooks have created. There will be no splurging on free agents who would take playing time away from the young core. Acquiring a high-priced veteran at the deadline, for example, would’ve taken minutes away from 2008 pick Serge Ibaka, who has played a prominent role off the bench since the All-Star break.
With the foundation already solidified through the draft, Oklahoma City will be flush with picks again, possessing two firsts and two seconds in 2010. After the draft, extension talks will begin with Durant, for whom big-market wanderlust is hardly an issue.
“Kevin loves it here,” Brooks said. “We have a great opportunity to make this place a place that can be good for a long time.”
That was the plan, and it hasn’t changed. Neither has the man who put it in place. As the town started coming to life for the Lakers game Friday night, Presti was just another anonymous guy with a BlackBerry and Dolce & Gabbana glasses waiting for his car at the valet stand. He has no entourage, no pretense, no desire for the limelight — except when it comes to his hobby.
In his spare time — and he confessed to having 30 minutes now and then — Presti unleashes his inner percussive demons. A drummer long before he was a GM, Presti has been a devoted fan of Rush’s unique, syncopated sound and its incomparable drummer, Peart, since his youth. In between scouting, working the phones and attending games, Presti has been known to turn on the iPod, sit down at the drum kit, and travel back to teen-age years spent deciphering Peart’s progressive-rock genius.
With 10 games left and playoff positioning at stake, Presti’s nerves are understandably frayed. But it’s nothing compared to the fear he’ll confront when he sits in for a few songs with a local cover band at an upcoming gig. Presti just hopes he doesn’t embarrass himself. Thunder fans hope he keeps his day job.”
A little Presti from earlier this season, and tell me you wouldn’t want this guy running your team: