Sam Presti

Knicks Eyeing Masai Ujiri, Sam Presti For Potential Front Office Opening?

Knicks management has reportedly been put on notice with owner James Dolan expecting the front office to make “progress” in order for several members of the front office to keep their jobs. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News hears that if New York finds itself hiring a new head of basketball operations, the team’s wish list begins with Raptors team president Masai Ujiri and Thunder GM Sam Presti.

Dolan has long been a fan of Ujiri’s. The Wizards took a stab at prying the executive from Toronto this past offseason with no success. Perhaps Dolan believes the Knicks will have better luck.

Presti has been with Oklahoma City for 12 seasons and he has arguably the most unique resume of any GM in the league. He drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden to build a true contender and after each player left has molded a different team, ranging from contender to mid-tier playoff team to one in a rebuild again.

Bondy also mentions Trajan Langdon – who helped the Nets turn their franchise around before moving onto the Pelicans – and Kiki Vandeweghe – who currently works in the league office – as potential targets. Bondy hears that Vandeweghe would have interest in the job.

Thunder Notes: CP3, Roberson, Maynor, KD

Asked today about how the team might approach a potential trade for Chris Paul, Thunder general manager Sam Presti declined to get into specifics, as Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays.

“Those are all case-by-case things,” Presti told reporters. “We’re not really focused on the hypotheticals.”

[RELATED: Chris Paul trade to Miami remains unlikely]

While there are whispers that Paul may want to join a contender rather than the spend the entire 2019/20 season in Oklahoma City, Presti said the veteran point guard is a “hooper” and “competitor” who just wants to play basketball. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for both of us,” the Thunder’s GM said.

Here’s more out of OKC:

  • Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since January 2018 due to leg injuries, is expected to be ready to go for training camp, Presti confirmed today, per Eric Horne of The Oklahoman. “We’re hopeful he’ll be seeing some preseason action as it gets closer,” Presti said. “We’ll obviously manage him closely because he hasn’t played competitive basketball in a while. He’s worked hard to get there.”
  • The Thunder have hired former point guard Eric Maynor as an assistant coach for their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, Presti announced today (link via Lee of The Oklahoman). Maynor, who played for the Thunder between 2009-13, also spent multiple seasons overseas, which Presti believes “gave him a totally different perspective on the game.”
  • Responding today to critical comments made by Kevin Durant about the way he was treated by the Thunder and fans after he left OKC in 2016, Presti took the high road, telling reporters, “I have nothing but positive things to say about him and his tenure here” (link via Horne of The Oklahoman).
  • According to Royce Young of ESPN.com, Presti pushed back against Doc Rivers‘ recent assertion that the Clippers knew the Thunder were looking to “break up their team” before they negotiated a trade for Paul George“We all know that players like Paul George and Russell Westbrook are extremely hard to acquire in cities, in the smaller cities in the league, and when you have those players, you try to do everything you can to retain them,” Presti said. “… I think the thought pattern just doesn’t really line up if you just look at it logically. Probably that type of thing would have been done much earlier and it wouldn’t have resulted from a trade request from one of your best players.”
  • The Oklahoman’s basketball writers discussed a handful of Thunder-related topics in a roundtable, including whether Billy Donovan is on the hot seat, what the Thunder could realistically expect to acquire in a Chris Paul trade, and more.

Thunder Expected To Take Patient Approach To Trading Chris Paul

From the moment Chris Paul was traded to the Thunder, the expectation was that OKC would trade him elsewhere. That may be what ultimately happen, though some around the league envision the Thunder being patient as they navigate the trade waters.

Several executives, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explains on The Jump, believe the Thunder will “put out the message” that they are not looking to trade CP3, talking up his veteran presence and all the positives about having him on the squad.

The franchise will attempt to regain some leverage in negotiations with other teams, as OKC doesn’t want to attach assets such as a first-round pick in order to move Paul’s $38.5MM salary. Paul’s contract is what makes a trade tricky; not his talent, as, even at age 34, he’s a good starting point guard.

It’s previously been reported that GM Sam Presti would be happy to have Paul on the roster all season and that the point guard views the team as a playoff contender in the Western Conference.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Bird, Westbrook, Presti

Keeping his young core group together is enough to make the Nuggets a prime Western Conference contender, general manager Arturas Karnisovas told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” (hat tip to the Denver Post’s Mike Singer).

“Definitely we’re banking on our continuity,” the Nuggets GM said. “A lot of teams that made changes and added huge pieces and stars, they’re still dealing in hypotheticals. We’ve watched this group show us last year, take us to a 54-28 season, having the best home record, 34-7, so this group is (established) and they’re still the third youngest group in the league.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Longtime WNBA star Sue Bird has a wide variety of duties as a basketball operations associate with the Nuggets during her league’s offseason, as Alex Coffey of The Athletic details. She observes games and practices, sits in on front office meetings, watches film and helps scouting college and international players. She also provided advice to point guard Monte Morris, which he found insightful. “She helped me stay encouraged when things were getting tough,” Morris said. “She would tell me things she noticed in how I played. It wasn’t always positive. There were times when she was like, ‘This guy’s guarding you this way. Try to counter him this way.’ Just little things like that.”
  • The Thunder have lost superstars before but the trade of Russell Westbrook to the Rockets has left a void, as Brett Dawson of The Athletic details. The bond between Westbrook and the city was stronger than any other star player.
  • Thunder GM Sam Presti remains hopeful the team can be fairly competitive next season despite trading away Westbrook and Paul George, Nick Gallo of the team’s website writes. “It’s going to be a different iteration of Thunder team than we’ve seen over the last several years,” Presti said. “The way we were able to pivot has given us the opportunity to have a much brighter future going forward and still have a team coming back this season that we feel good about.”

Thunder Notes: Roberson, George, SGA, Paul

After penning an editorial in The Oklahoman to try to explain the Thunder‘s offseason to fans, head of basketball operations Sam Presti appeared in front of reporters today to discuss what has been an eventful offseason in Oklahoma City. Presti hadn’t addressed the media since draft night, so he had a lot of ground to cover in today’s session.

Besides discussing the deals that sent Paul George to the Clippers and Russell Westbrook to Houston, Presti also shared some news, telling reporters – including Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman – that injured swingman Andre Roberson is on track to be ready for the start of the 2019/20 season.

It has been a year and a half since Roberson last played in an NBA game. Since rupturing his left patellar tendon in January 2018, the veteran has experienced multiple setbacks and delays in his rehab process. However, Presti says he’s “really excited” for Roberson to return to OKC’s lineup this season.

Here are a few more of the highlights from Presti, via Lee and Royce Young of ESPN:

On new Clipper Paul George referring to his split with the Thunder as “mutual”:

“I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that because that would infer that we were wanting to trade Paul George, which I think most people would agree that that probably wasn’t on the top of our offseason priority list. But I would say that it was not adversarial at all, and I also fully respect the way that it was handled. And the fact that we were able to make it work in a way that benefited the franchise made it something that we could do.”

On whether he considered denying George’s trade request:

“I wouldn’t say that we were going to appease the request simply because it was made, but more than anything, it was because of the fact that we were able to get the return that we did, which then allowed us to accommodate what he was looking for, as well.

“… I just don’t think for us, we can take that risk, given the lengths that we had gone to to try to keep the run that we started in 2008 together, one more year without everybody being totally on board knowing that we could be faced with the exact same situation, from a business perspective, from a practical perspective, it would be irresponsible not to look at that opportunity. And it worked out.”

On acquiring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander:

“To get Shai is a big deal for us. We’re really excited about him. I think he’s not really even scratching the surface. … I think he’s got tremendous makeup, and I think that’s going to be a big accelerator for ultimately how good a player he becomes, and I think he has that. He’s got great size and great length, and he’s a sponge.”

On Chris Paul‘s future in Oklahoma City:

“I can’t give you a forecast on how many years or anything like that, especially after … some of this transition we’re going through right now. But I would say that we’re excited about having him here. He’s excited about the opportunity here. And I think he has an opportunity to really impact the team in a positive way. … I do know that I think he’s going to have a really good year for us, and I do think he’s excited about the opportunity to have an impact on the team.”

Sam Presti Discusses Thunder Offseason, Future

In an editorial published in The Oklahoman, Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti addressed the team’s fans directly in discussing the franchise’s summer roster overhaul. In the last month, Oklahoma City has traded away reliable starter Jerami Grant, MVP finalist Paul George, and franchise cornerstone Russell Westbrook.

“This summer, the story of the Oklahoma City Thunder is transitioning to a new phase. Over the last few weeks, we have parted ways with foundational players — people who have represented our city to the world, who have sacrificed for us and flourished on our behalf,” Presti wrote. “Although this has been painful, I also believe that — given the circumstances — it was necessary. In saying goodbye to the past, we have begun to chart our future. The next great Thunder team is out there somewhere, but it will take time to seize and discipline to ultimately sustain.”

Within his editorial, Presti spoke about the team’s goal of building sustainable, long-term success, suggesting that the front office will need to resist taking shortcuts and accept any criticism that comes its way during the rebuilding process.

Presti cautioned that the rebuild will take some time and that “things will inevitably get harder from here,” but said the Thunder will be “fearless, focused, and relentless in seeking opportunities to improve our long-term position.”

Interestingly, Presti also explored the challenges of building a championship contender while not having the advantages that come with playing in a major market like Los Angeles or New York.

“Despite our city’s rapid rise and growth, Oklahoma City remains the second-smallest market in the NBA,” Presti wrote. “While this brings many benefits, it also poses strategic challenges. Given the way the league’s system is designed, small market teams operate with significant disadvantages. There is no reason to pretend otherwise.

“This in no way means we cannot be extraordinarily successful — we, and several other small to mid-market teams, are our own best examples of the ability to overcome these realities. It simply means we must be thinking differently, optimistically, finding our advantages by other means.”

The Thunder have earned a spot in the postseason in nine of the last 10 seasons, making it to the Finals once during the stretch and to the Western Conference Finals three more times. However, the team is considered more likely to land in the lottery than to make the playoffs in 2019/20.

Westbrook Mulling Possibility Of Being Traded

Russell Westbrook and Thunder  GM Sam Presti are discussing the possibility of the franchise trading its longtime All-Star guard prior to next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

While Presti could explore trades for Westbrook, his massive contract could prove difficult to move. He has four years and $170MM remaining on his deal, including a whopping $47MM player option for the 2022/23 season.

Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher, are in discussions with Presti regarding his future with the team. Oklahoma City is now in rebuild mode after the surprising agreed-upon swap of league MVP finalist Paul George to the Clippers. George requested a trade in order to pair up with superstar Kawhi Leonard.

Westbrook signed a five-year supermax extension in 2017 to become the highest-paid player in NBA history at the time. That could now severely hamper Presti’s efforts to trade him. The Thunder have to assume Westbrook carries negative trade value at this point, ESPN’s Zach Lowe speculates. An executive from a contender told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon he wouldn’t be interested in Westbrook because of those salary concerns (Twitter link).

The alternative of retaining Westbrook and trying to remain a contender is an unlikely scenario for Oklahoma City, Wojnarowski adds. The Thunder are well over the salary cap with a projected salary tax payment of $43MM with the existing roster. They were already in cost-cutting mode prior to George’s trade request, Wojnarowski adds.

Northwest Notes: Russell, George, Porter, Adams, Nuggets

Could the Timberwolves figure out a way to sign D’Angelo Russell? ESPN’s Zach Lowe hears that Minnesota will try to make a run at the Nets guard, who will be a restricted free agent unless Brooklyn renounces his rights (hat tip to RealGM). “There has been a lot of Minnesota (signing) D’Angelo Russell noise,” Lowe said. “And it’s not all Karl Towns commenting on Instagram because they’re friends. Minnesota has communicated to the league, not the NBA league, just the league at large that they believe they have a pathway to get D’Angelo Russell.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder will get a better read on Paul George‘s status in late September, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman reports. He’s expected to miss most of the preseason after undergoing offseason surgeries to his right rotator cuff and left labrum. “He’s doing well,” GM Sam Presti said. “He’s going to make a full recovery.” Shooting guard Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played since January 2018 after suffering a serious knee injury, has been training in Texas, Horne adds.
  • Forward Michael Porter Jr. will make his Nuggets debut in the Las Vegas Summer League next month and he’s ready to go, Parth Upadhyaya of Denver Post relays. After being selected at the end of the lottery last season, Porter sat out last season to rehab from back surgery. “He’s been in the gym twice a day for a long time,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. “He’s been fully cleared for several months.”
  • Thunder center Steven Adams won’t play for New Zealand in the FIBA World Cup this summer, according to Sportando.
  • The Nuggets did not retain assistants Mark Price and Bob Weiss, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets.

Thunder Notes: George, Abrines, Matthews, Donovan

Thunder All-Star forward Paul George will soon have his right shoulder re-evaluated by a specialist, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman reports. GM Sam Presti told the media during his annual post-season press conference that George will see a specialist outside of Oklahoma City but Thunder staff members will be present.

George saw action in 77 regular-season games but took four games off to rest his aching shoulder. He was effective in the playoffs despite the discomfort, posting averages on 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG during the Thunder’s 4-1 opening-round series loss to Portland. Presti declared that George “was at no risk of any type of future injury” this season and labelled the possibility of George undergoing surgery as “speculation.”

We have more from Presti’s press conference:

  • He took the blame for not having enough sharpshooting wings on the roster, Lee notes in a separate story. Presti thought Alex Abrines would have a “breakout year” but the swingman missed 17 games for personal reasons and was ultimately waived. The Thunder pursued Wesley Matthews after the Knicks bought him out and waived him but Matthews chose Indiana. “Once Wes Matthews went to Indiana there really wasn’t a lot of other options out there, and that put some stress on us offensively, and you never want to be in that position,” he said.
  • Billy Donovan is expected to return as head coach despite the latest postseason flameout. Presti said he has yet to meet with Donovan on the subject because he wanted to give his coach more time to “reflect and decompress,” Brett Dawson of The Athletic tweets. “I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him,” Presti said. “If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation.

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, Walton, Nunez, Magic

The Lakers reportedly plan to retain general manager Rob Pelinka following Magic Johnson‘s shocking resignation, but the consensus from general managers and agents around the NBA is that Pelinka is part of the problem in L.A., according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Pelinka, who didn’t make a ton of friends around the league during his days an agent representing Kobe Bryant and others, received plenty of criticism from the sources who spoke to Turner.

“I just don’t see how they do anything going forward with Rob in place,” one agent said. “No one trusts him.”

“Honestly, they need to hire an experienced general manager with credibility and let him fire Rob,” another agent said. “Let that president that come in, let him have the authority to hire his staff and to hire their head coach if he doesn’t want Luke Walton.”

Agents who may have had an adversarial relationship with Pelinka during his own days as an agent might be a little biased about his performance as a front office executive. But even rival GMs didn’t have a ton of praise for the Lakers’ GM, as Turner details. One general manager told Turner that front office people don’t have a good relationship with Pelinka from his days representing Kobe and other high-profile players.

“To tell you the truth, they should go out and get a top executive in the league to run everything,” one GM said. “That’s what they need to do. Go get a guy that can get this done. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t get done. Go get an executive that’s done it or who has built something.

“Go get Bob Myers (Warriors) if you can. Go after Sam Presti (Thunder). Those guys know how to build a team. If they have the tools that the Lakers have — cap space and a big city, appeal, you got LeBron James on your roster — you got to be able to attract one of these guys to work in their front office.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Three NBA head coaches have been let go today, but Luke Walton wasn’t one of them. According to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times, a coaching change doesn’t appear to be imminent for the Lakers, though people familiar with the club’s thinking believe Walton may be asked to make some changes to his coaching staff if he returns.
  • During their end-of-season conversations with reporters, a handful of Lakers spoke candidly about the impact that Anthony Davis trade rumors had on the team prior to the deadline, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com relays. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said that “everybody kind of lost themselves” around the deadline, while Josh Hart said social media – and the constant rumors swirling around the team – “made it annoying.”
  • According to McMenamin (via Twitter), the Lakers fired head athletic training Marco Nunez on Wednesday after a season in which nearly all of the Lakers’ top players missed time due to injuries.
  • Of all the reasons Magic Johnson had to step down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, money wasn’t one of them — according to Sam Amick of The Athletic (via RealGM.com), Johnson was earning approximately $10MM per year in the role.