NBA trade deadline: Thunder GM Sam Presti rolls the dice by not dealing Danilo Gallinari
Thunder fans got what they wanted Thursday. Which is not what they usually want.
All fans usually clamor for a deal at the NBA’s trade deadline. Standing pat generally is considered a cowardly way to conduct business. Roll the dice, say the masses. Shake up things. Hit me, even when sitting on 16.
Such is the nature of one of basketball’s holy days, when the entire league — players, coaches, executives, fans — fixates on the tweets from Woj and Shams and other strangely named reporters who provide non-stop gossip and developments on the trade market.
But this season is different. The maiden season of the Thunder’s post-Russell Westbrook era, which began mostly with misgivings, has turned into a celebration of all that is right about America’s game.
The Thunder arrived on deadline day with a 31-20 record, tied for the 10th-best record in the 30-team league, and with a share-the-ball, have-a-good-time, enjoy-the-experience mentality. No glaring allowed.
It’s been such a charming season, you’d think the Thunder was 41-10, not the 31-20 that is not so different from OKC’s other trade-deadline records of recent years: 32-25 in 2017, 31-25 in 2018, 34-19 in 2019.
The trade deadline offers tuneups for contending teams — Kendrick Perkins’ arrival in February 2011 ignited the Thunder to three Western Conference Finals in 39 months — and Thunder fans anxiously await each year for that kind of impact deal, even though that was Sam Presti’s most recent February blockbuster.
But this year, Oklahomans prayed for no Presti wheeling and dealing. They like this team, they like it a lot, and they didn’t want to see Chris Paul or Gallinari, Dennis Schroder or Steven Adams, packaged to a far-off port, even if it meant future bounty.
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A few minutes after 2 p.m., desires granted. No Thunder trades, despite reports that lingered for 20 hours about the Miami Heat’s interest in Gallinari.
Now, the Thunder commences with the homestretch of a season that will include that catchy tune, “Da-KNEE-low, GALL-in-are-ee,” ringing throughout Chesapeake Energy Arena. Swedish rock band De Vet Du’s anthem for its favorite player has become an OKC staple, as have those deep Gallinari 3-pointers that complement the all-around games of ballhandlers Paul, Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Presti didn’t get the Heat offer he wanted — wonder if he played hard ball and asked for Tyler Herro? — so Presti will ride Gallinari into summer free agency, hoping that a tight market means Gallinari could seek the Thunder’s help in landing at the franchise of his choice. Such a sign-and-trade agreement could bring Presti more than Miami was offering.
It’s a gamble, of course. Gallinari this summer could get an offer he likes from a team with payroll space, and the Thunder would be left with nothing for Gallo outside of that catchy ditty running through everyone’s head.
And it’s not like trading Gallinari would have sunk this Thunder season. OKC has moved into sixth place in the West — the trade deadline arrived with the Thunder having the same record as the 76ers, Pacers and Mavericks! — and wasn’t likely to fall below seventh no matter who got traded.
Gallinari is a valuable player, but OKC is 7-1 without him this season. Make no mistake, the indispensable pieces of this Thunder puzzle are those three point guards, Schroder, SGA and CP3.
If Presti had bitten on the Miami-Memphis three-way trade and landed either Jae Crowder or Solomon Hill, the Thunder roster wouldn’t be much affected: worse offensively but better defensively. If the Thunder had landed both, the roster would have been deeper. Remember that in the playoffs when the Thunder is trotting out Luguentz Dort or Darius Bazley to beat the Clippers or Nuggets.
But Presti didn’t bite — summer usually is when he says “hit me” — so the Thunder stood pat, and we all can keep singing, “Da-KNEE-low, GALL-in-are-ee.”
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.