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Friday Bolts: 9.21.18

Erik Horne on Sam Presti’s quest to have the Thunder play faster: “So, Presti’s concept of improving offense boiled down to three ideas Thursday: Getting different players, making more shots or taking better shots. Part 1 is the hardest of the trio to accomplish, but the Thunder upgraded with the 24-year-old Schroder, who in theory will open up shots for others with his drives and ability to get into the paint. Parts 2 and 3? Presti and the Thunder believe playing faster and in a rhythm will lead to more efficiency on offense and defense. Tempo. “People think about speed with respect to just style of play, but in reality, we want to be faster making decisions on both sides of the floor,” Presti said. “We do want to be faster, obviously physically, but we want to be faster in how quickly we recognize situations within the game.” Can a team with Westbrook, George and Schroder as its three most dynamic players — elite scorers who thrive with the ball in their hands — work in such a way? Can that trio take what’s an executable shot for them and occasionally pass it up for a more efficient shot?”

NBA.com with Presti’s comments about not rushing Russell Westbrook back from surgery: “As the Thunder hope for a solid season and deep playoff run in 2018-19, OKC general manager Sam Presti told reporters today the team will not rush Westbrook back into the lineup. Westbrook is scheduled to have his knee injury re-evaluated in a few more weeks, which Presti said the team is waiting for before deciding anything else about their star. “We’d never push Russell or any player onto the floor. It was a pretty minor thing he had done. We’ll see how that re-evaluation goes,” Presti said. A re-evaluation of Westbrook’s status four weeks since his surgery would be around Oct. 10. That would be six days away from OKC’s regular-season opener at the Golden State Warriors.”

Erik Horne with Presti’s update on Andre Roberson: “At his preseason press conference on Thursday, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Andre Roberson will be a non-contact participant to start Thunder preseason. Presti said Roberson is back on the floor and will go through non-contact parts of training camp, which starts Sept. 25. There is no exact time when Roberson will get back to contact. “He’s doing a lot more this week than he was last week,” Presti said. “He’s through the hardest part of this recovery process. We don’t think we will be without him very long.” Roberson is close to eight months removed from rupturing the patellar tendon in his left knee. Roberson also underwent arthroscopic surgery on the same knee on May 29.”

Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) on Presti deferring to Billy Donovan in regards to the starting power forward: “With Presti answering questions regarding the roster, it is clear that it will 100 percent be head coach Billy Donovan’s call on the starting lineup as Presti understands that is his area of expertise. “One of the things that I think is important with Billy is we have to let Billy make those decisions,” Presti said. “The other thing about Billy is he is always asking for opinions; he’s a constant learner. It doesn’t matter what role you play in the organization, he will ask you and I think that’s what makes him great. But, at the end of the day, he knows that he has to make the calls. He has to make the decisions. He is in charge of what happens. Once the ball is tipped up, once we are competing, he makes all of the decisions relative to what happens in between the lines. I know he likes both of those players [at power forward] – Jerami and Pat.”

Nick Gallo on Presti’s vision for the 2018-19 Thunder: “Inspiration will also likely come in the form of his brand-new twin daughters, Elise and Millie, born on Wednesday evening. After a night of very brief sleep and shuffling his son Nicholas off to school, Presti laid out his vision for the 2018-19 season on Thursday morning, just days prior to the start of the Thunder’s 2018 U.S. Cellular Training Camp. As Presti looks at the world at large, with the Thunder and the NBA in mind, he sees a crucial problem that every business is trying to solve: “The speed of everything is so much faster today,” Presti explained. “The opportunity for you to be able to adjust, adapt, make decisions in everything is shrunk. You also have to have a consistency of purpose to have an identity, so you can’t just shoot from the hip all the time because things have sped up around you. You have to still be efficient and that’s the biggest challenge.”

Presti’s full press conference via NewsOK:

Adam Fromal (B/R) gives the Thunder the fifth-best backcourt in the NBA: “5. Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson. The Oklahoma City Thunder could begin the season with Dennis Schroder, Alex Abrines or Terrance Ferguson suiting up alongside Russell Westbrook in the starting five. Based on our methodology, that would drop them to Nos. 7, 12 and 12, respectively, in the backcourt rankings. But we’re sticking with the listed duo because the perennial MVP candidate and perpetually underrated swingman are so potent together. Roberson, despite offensive deficiencies that sometimes allow defenders to play five-on-four basketball, is such a gifted wing defender that he can negate some of Westbrook’s gambling on that end. He brings out the best in his point guard, just as Westbrook’s aggression often opens up easier cutting opportunities for him.  Anyone would look good alongside Westbrook, no matter how prominent his flaws have become under the intense scrutiny that’s followed his time since he won the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Roberson just looks especially good.”

ESPN has Russell Westbrook seventh on their Top 100 players list: “Forever polarizing, perpetually misunderstood, constantly critiqued. Westbrook brings so much of it upon himself, with his mistakes ringing louder than most any other player in the league. But at his best, there are few who can dominate a game the way he can. Efficiency has always been his enemy, with his righteous competitive spirit sometimes getting in the way of better judgment. He’s averaged a triple-double in back-to-back seasons while putting his stamp as an all-time great and one of the most unique stars to ever play. But for him, it’s about the next evolution — can he be unapologetically himself and still win at the highest level? Or does he need to dial down and change for the greater good? Or really, can he?”

Around the League: How salary cap increases will impact the 2019 and 2020 offseasons…. Richard Jefferson’s dad was killed in a drive-by shooting…. Shaq is jealous of Dwyane Wade’s farewell tour…. Magic Johnson is encouraged by Lonzo Ball’s re-built jumper…. Reviewing the Clippers’ best trade for Jimmy Butler…. Inside the Rockets’ biggest loss of the summer…. Is Kyrie Irving committed to the Celtics?