3 min read

Thursday Bolts: 5.2.19

Jenni Carlson (Oklahoman) on why the Thunder must respond after another crash and burn: “When the Thunder general manager had his end-of-the-season press conference, he talked of how he’ll approach these coming weeks. Conversations with Billy Donovan and Clay Bennett. Collaboration with the analytics experts and number crunchers. Then development of a plan for this franchise moving forward. “We’re not looking to be fast,” Presti said. “We’re not looking to be quick. We’re looking to be rigorous. We just don’t have the liberty to be … momentary problem solvers.” In other words, the Thunder can’t be knee jerk. Not being reactionary is a good policy. But make no mistake — in the coming weeks and months, the Thunder must react. It must be driven by its crash and burn out of the playoffs. It must be motivated by yet another first-round exit in which “we got our a– kicked,” Presti said.”

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on the Thunder’s summer checklist: “Under the table, next to Sam Presti’s left foot, sat a box of tissues and a small bottle of water. The Thunder general manager was a little under the weather as he met the media this week for his annual end-of-season news conference, so shortly before Presti’s arrival, communications director Matt Tumbleson had set the necessities near a chair facing a group of reporters. It was a small gesture but one emblematic of the Thunder’s bigger picture. Preparation is an aspiration here. Presti is the only general manager Oklahoma City has ever known, and the organization under his direction strives not just to succeed but also to sustain, to adapt to what changes come.”

Jacob Kniffen (Hoops Habit) on Thunder players at risk of being traded this offseason: “Heading into the summer of 2019, the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves at a crossroads: keep the team together after a disappointing season, or look to make drastic changes. In order to make those changes, the front office would have to look at at how they could manipulate the trade market. Presti would almost assuredly not trade away the franchise’s cornerstone players of Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The next largest salary on the team belongs to Steven Adams. Although Adams posted career highs in points (13.9), field goal attempts (10.1), rebounds (9.5), assists (1.6) and steals per game (1.5), questions still exist about his fit with the Thunder — especially with a non-shooting point guard like Westbrook. Adams has two years left on his contract, earning $25.8 million in the 2019-20 season and $27.5 million in 2020-21. If Presti is able to find a team willing to part with quality wing players in return for the 25 year-old center, it is an option he will have to consider.”

Perk is saying things:

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on the Thunder putting their faith in Billy Donovan for the fifth season: “Presti still felt the staff succeeded in molding the Thunder into a Top 5 defense without those parts. “A majority of the questions last year were about the defense, getting that corrected,” Presti said. “I felt like even with the hit we took with Dre, we had some guys step up. I think the players and coaches did a pretty good job overall, but you’re not going to solve one thing without creating another situation somewhere else.” In a quote that will likely haunt Presti for the rest of his days in OKC, he talked up Donovan’s “tactical competence” during his hire in 2015. Asked where Donovan’s tactics were strong this season, Presti mentioned the Thunder’s success out of timeouts, and a Top 5 defense that produced a league-high opponent’s turnover rate of 16 percent of their possessions. Presti also reached back into the archives for Donovan’s 2016 playoff masterwork — the dominance of a 67-win Spurs team and taking a 73-win Golden State to within minutes of elimination in the Western Conference finals. Enter capability and the Thunder’s inability to play to its capabilities even when it had Durant.”

Tim Daniels (B/R) on Damian Lillard’s comments about being cool with Russell Westbrook: “Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said Friday there’s no real-life bad blood with Oklahoma City Thunder counterpart Russell Westbrook despite some on-court drama throughout their head-to-head meeting during the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs. Lillard explained during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show(via Cody Taylor of ThunderWire) any issues can be attributed to the players’ competitive fire. “Now that the series is over, it was funny to me that people wanted to make it like such a negative thing between us,” he said. “Me and Russ are really cool off of the court. But when we get on the court, I don’t expect anything else from him and he doesn’t expect anything else from me. There’s no dislike.”