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News » Patient Presti touts Thunder's flexibility


Patient Presti touts Thunder's flexibility


Patient Presti touts Thunder's flexibility
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Even if Tyson Chandler didn't end up coming to Oklahoma City because the Thunder rescinded a midseason trade, the situation still sent a message that the relocated franchise might be willing to use some of that extra salary cap room if the right deal surfaced.

Chandler would have become the Thunder's highest paid player, the only one with a salary clearing eight figures. But because he was sent back to New Orleans after failing a physical, Oklahoma City general manager Sam Pretsi still has that extra money at his disposal.

"We're in a favorable cap position. We've made some decisions to put us in that situation going forward, and we'll have flexibility to do it," Presti said Friday. "If it's something we feel like will improve the team, our ownership group has been unbelievably supportive and are behind us making decisions to improve this basketball team."

Presti will have the usual opportunities to change the Thunder's roster in the offseason: the draft, with two first-round picks this year, and in free agency, when a series of expiring contracts only add to the possibilities.

Presti jump-started his retooling when he picked up starters Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic in midseason moves that didn't take away from the Thunder's young core. Sefolosha was acquired from the Chicago Bulls for a draft pick and Krstic signed as a restricted free agent after he had been playing in Europe.

Presti said the only disappointment was that late-season injuries to Durant, Sefolosha and Jeff Green kept the franchise's starting five from playing together down the stretch.

"Having the core guys together on our roster for more minutes on the floor, I think that's really going to help us," Presti said.

Depending on whether the Thunder re-sign free agents Malik Rose and Desmond Mason, the team could get even younger next season. Passing on the two would get rid of two of the largest paychecks on the team, but also take away much of the veteran presence that existed around a starting lineup that has no one with more than four years of NBA experience.

"We have several decisions that we have to make coming up," Presti said. "We can't walk in with a specific average age, so to speak. We have to see how things unfold for us in the draft and many different areas, and we'll make the decisions that we can.

"We can't just say we need to do X and then not be willing to move from that because we're so stubborn."

The buzzword for the Thunder is flexibility. Since trading away All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis in Seattle, Presti has been finding ways to bring the franchise more valuable draft picks and salary cap space while building a young nucleus that could soon rival that of rising Western Conference rival Portland.

Just because the new personnel seems to have the Thunder inching closer to where playoff contention might be realistic doesn't mean there's any pressure to make a giant leap.

"We've worked hard for that opportunity, but we're not just going to rush into a decision because we have the flexibility," Presti said. "We want to be smart and well thought out as we spend it or as we use it. If the right thing isn't there, then we'll be patient."

While Presti is evaluating draft prospects and monitoring other chances to make the Thunder better, the current players will also be trying to develop after a 23-win season.

Presti said Oklahoma City would field teams in both of the NBA's summer leagues in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. S

Serge Ibaka and DeVon Hardin, two of the teams 2008 draft picks, are expected to return from overseas to join D.J. White, Shaun Livingston and Kyle Weaver in at least one of the cities. Rookie Russell Westbrook, the team's starting point guard, will play in Orlando.

Even though people want to believe there's a way to speed up the learning process, Presti said "you just can't hit a button for that."

Instead, the Thunder go into the offseason with head coach Scott Brooks no longer operating on an interim basis and with the entire starting five expected to be back next season and build some continuity.

"I think that it's something that you try to establish and having that is important for us. Guys continuing to play together and understand each other, that's a positive thing for not just our team, but any basketball team at any level," Presti said.

"We like the fact that we'll have a returning group of players that have gone through the year and have minutes under their belt together, and we need to pick up and be focused on improving and getting better and being more consistent for next season."


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 18, 2009

 

 
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