Exactly one year and two months ago, the new Daily Thunder regime (owners Cray Allred and John Napier and Beat Reporter Me) was welcomed with open arms to our first ever Thunder Media Day.
How drastically things can change in 14 months.
Cray grew a beard.
John had a tweet go viral (28+ likes at last count).
I had a baby.
A new president was elected. Maybe.
Oh and a worldwide pandemic happened so Thunder Media Day has turned into Thunder Virtual Media Week.
Thunder VP and GM Sam Presti kicked off the festivities with a nearly hour long Zoom call with over 50 OKC and national media members. In the interest of saving you 60 minutes of your time and garnering clicks for this website, I’ve rounded up the highlights.
1. Sam Presti translation for “rebuilding”? “Transitioning”.
I didn’t do an official count of how many times Presti uttered the word “transition” and all its different variations, but I would put the estimate at roughly a triple double. The words “rebuild” and “tank” have a negative connotation, so I don’t blame Presti for transitioning to a different nomenclature.
“After 12 years of high performance, it would be a little bit of denial, especially after the summer of 2016, that we wouldn’t have to transition the team.”
2. Poku is going to get minutes.
OKC’s 1st round draft pick has been a member of the Thunder for about as long as he’s been a legal adult. That doesn’t mean the Serbian fanny pack fan will be spending his rookie season punching a time card for the Blue.
“Aleksej Pokusevski might be the youngest player in the NBA, I don’t know. Last summer, he was playing in an under 18 tournament. We scout those ferociously. He’s a player that caught the attention of the group. His basketball IQ, his overall skill level. We tracked him from that point on. Young players sometimes need an opportunity, the chance to fail, to get feedback.”
3. Shai is going to be the man.
Next to Fade4Cade, the most important storyline for the 2021 Thunder squad is the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. While most predict stardom for the lone returning Thunder player to average double digit points last season, nobody really knows what his ceiling is or how great he can or cannot be. His rookie season, he was an important part of a scoring ensemble with the Clippers but never had the chance to take the reins. Last year, he led the Thunder in scoring, but with Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder in the mix, he again shared the ball. That won’t be the case in 2021. Sammy says OKC wants to expand SGA’s game.
“To take another step in the sense of us saying, ‘Hey, we want you to have the ball. We will walk you through it every step of the way.’”
But offense seems to come fairly easily for Shai, so many have no doubt he’ll shine in an increased role. It’s the other side of the ball that has some fans concerned. Well, Presti’s been watching tape too.
“Shai taking a step up defensively will catapult him to another level.”
4. Presti is a proud Papa.
If you happen to be out and about in Bricktown and pull up next to a solar powered sports car blasting A Tribe Called Quest with a bumper sticker that says, “My kids are honor students at Thunder U”, be sure and give ‘ole Sammy the traditional Okie wave. I’ve covered Presti’s ponderings on Poku and Shai already, but his presser had some savory soundbites about the other Thunder whippersnappers.
“The young players are hungry. To grow their game and to take on bigger roles. I’m very excited about this season.”
Trigger warning: Hamidou Diallo kudos coming your way!
“Hamidou is a guy that has come into every camp and carved out a role on each team.” Presti mentions that he’s lost his spot in the past due to injury but ended up winning it back. Even in the Bubble training camp.
Presti is good, but he swears he’s no Nostradortamus.
“I wish I could take credit for knowing Lu Dort would end up starting. Lu was playing because we had some injuries, and he didn’t fail. Next thing you know, he’s Lu Dort.”
No word on whether the food was better than Magic City wings, but Darius Bazley joined Sammy for supper.
“I had dinner with Baze a couple times in the bubble, and I just love his mentality.”
5. Sammy didn’t want to trade Steven Adams, but Sammy had to trade Steven Adams.
Seeing Steven go ranks in the Top 5 of the all-time Thunder Pain list, along with KD’s decision, Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals, the Russ trade, and Nate Robinson’s boxing career. But as much as it hurt OKC fans to lose Adams, it hurt Presti even more.
“That was a difficult and very challenging decision to make. I talked with Steven prior, I extended my gratitude to him. I was transparent with his agent. He’s left a tremendous mark on our franchise. Ultimately we have to put the Thunder first. It wasn’t my best day at work, I’ll tell you that.”