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OKC Thunder Q&A: Sam Presti on why the time was right to rebuild

Thunder general manager Sam Presti addressed the media on Monday before the start of training camp. 

Questions focused on the new direction of the franchise following the trades and transactions of the last few weeks. 

The Oklahoman caught up with Presti after his press conference to discuss the Thunder’s rebuild in more detail. 

Q: Why was this the right time to go all-in on the future rather than running things back with virtually the same roster? 

Presti: At times in any of our lives, we can tend to make decisions based on what we prefer as opposed to what’s best. We couldn't afford to do that given the system we operate in and our goal for sustainable high performance. 

When you step back and take a clear-eyed, rational view of the season we had last year, and all of the randomness that occurred in our favor, the loss of future value we would be relinquishing for a small probability of replicating those performances, it was clear that the most objective path was to prioritize the future. That’s without factoring in how a healthy Warriors, Blazers, or Pelicans team affects the competitive landscape around us. It wasn't an easy decision, but serving the long-term interests of the organization was necessary after what has been a decade plus run of high performance. 

Q: You tried to prepare fans for a rebuild last summer, but then the team overachieved and that message might have been lost. What do you say to those who are not sold on the idea of a multi-year rebuild? 

Presti: That message was just us being transparent and honest about the path ahead, whenever we arrived at that point, and the necessary time that will be required to position ourselves for the kind of success we’re seeking based on our aspirations for Oklahoma City. We could lower our bar to make for an easier path, or ignore the recent history of team building, but that would not be creating the best conditions for decision making. 

It was also a look back at our journey to that point in time, and a way to reflect on the memories and recognize the partnership between the community and the team that has been created. And now it continues. 

Q: Some owners reject the idea of a rebuild and would rather try to make the playoffs year after year, even if it means never being a legitimate contender. Were those difficult conversations between you and Clay Bennett, or was everyone on the same page? 

Presti: Clay has amassed an amazing amount of unique experiences in a short amount of time as a team owner. I think those dynamic experiences, plus his understanding of the CBA, then operating a team in a small market, ‎and his decades of business experience make it a rather fundamental decision when you consider the alternatives. 

He’s well versed in the system we currently operate within, and shares the understanding of the path required to meet our aspirations for long term sustainable success. Neither of us want to lower our long-term goals for the team or the city in order to adjust the path, and we don’t think the system is likely to change, so the decision, as I said, is fundamental for us. 

Related Photos
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti addresses the media during his start of the season press conference at the Thunder practice facility in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti addresses the media during his start of the season press conference at the Thunder practice facility in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-84e12b08e1d73926db9d4e4a92af331f.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti addresses the media during his start of the season press conference at the Thunder practice facility in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti addresses the media during his start of the season press conference at the Thunder practice facility in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti addresses the media during his start of the season press conference at the Thunder practice facility in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5fc2f4d01fdd4a93724e6bfc33b50004.jpg" alt="Photo - Grant Jerrett, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams hold their jerseys during a press conference at the Thunder Events center, Saturday, July 29, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Grant Jerrett, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams hold their jerseys during a press conference at the Thunder Events center, Saturday, July 29, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Grant Jerrett, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams hold their jerseys during a press conference at the Thunder Events center, Saturday, July 29, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8a13c5242e480ca975e22dbb2f95d8aa.jpg" alt="Photo - Steven Adams made his Thunder debut Sunday in Orlando. He scored two points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes. Photo by Sarah Phipps The Oklahoman" title="Steven Adams made his Thunder debut Sunday in Orlando. He scored two points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes. Photo by Sarah Phipps The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Steven Adams made his Thunder debut Sunday in Orlando. He scored two points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes. Photo by Sarah Phipps The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-548d8a45b739da5c8bc9a511997bc76d.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) celebrates from the bench during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman " title="Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) celebrates from the bench during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman "><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) celebrates from the bench during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-06b5080e7d430f26cb5b547bf44f5437.jpg" alt="Photo - The Thunder is using Enes Kanter, left, and Steven Adams in the offense more than ever, from passing to running the fast break. [PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN] " title=" The Thunder is using Enes Kanter, left, and Steven Adams in the offense more than ever, from passing to running the fast break. [PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN] "><figcaption> The Thunder is using Enes Kanter, left, and Steven Adams in the offense more than ever, from passing to running the fast break. [PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1b0634556cb2acbb24b14884e5cdff65.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams misses a dunk over Indiana Pacers forward JaKarr Sampson during Tuesday night's game in Indianapolis. The Pacers whipped Oklahoma City, 111-85. [AP Photo/Michael Conroy] " title=" Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams misses a dunk over Indiana Pacers forward JaKarr Sampson during Tuesday night's game in Indianapolis. The Pacers whipped Oklahoma City, 111-85. [AP Photo/Michael Conroy] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams misses a dunk over Indiana Pacers forward JaKarr Sampson during Tuesday night's game in Indianapolis. The Pacers whipped Oklahoma City, 111-85. [AP Photo/Michael Conroy] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b1e0081e9198132ce16ef5e4ade27224.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Steven Adams goes up for a dunk over Philadelphia's Joel Embiid during Monday night's game. Adams scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in OKC's 120-113 loss. [AP Photo/Matt Slocum] " title=" Oklahoma City's Steven Adams goes up for a dunk over Philadelphia's Joel Embiid during Monday night's game. Adams scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in OKC's 120-113 loss. [AP Photo/Matt Slocum] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Steven Adams goes up for a dunk over Philadelphia's Joel Embiid during Monday night's game. Adams scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in OKC's 120-113 loss. [AP Photo/Matt Slocum] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ef20a69017246609f746e1eed172f4df.jpg" alt="Photo - Boston's Enes Kanter, right, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Steven Adams during Sunday's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Kanter, a former Thunder player, remains a fan favorite in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Boston's Enes Kanter, right, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Steven Adams during Sunday's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Kanter, a former Thunder player, remains a fan favorite in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Boston's Enes Kanter, right, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Steven Adams during Sunday's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Kanter, a former Thunder player, remains a fan favorite in Oklahoma City. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-41237ffe4eb5987b71d7a9438c9f3dcf.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, right, celebrates a basket from half-court near the end of the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night at Smoothie King Center. The Thunder won 123-118. [AP Photo/Matthew Hinton] " title=" Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, right, celebrates a basket from half-court near the end of the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night at Smoothie King Center. The Thunder won 123-118. [AP Photo/Matthew Hinton] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, right, celebrates a basket from half-court near the end of the first half against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night at Smoothie King Center. The Thunder won 123-118. [AP Photo/Matthew Hinton] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7a334ae5e90582d3d0aa79d7e4d57519.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Steven Adams gets ready to dunk the basketball beside San Antonio's Marco Belinelli and Lonnie Walker IV during Sunday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Adams had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the Thunder's 131-103 victory. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City's Steven Adams gets ready to dunk the basketball beside San Antonio's Marco Belinelli and Lonnie Walker IV during Sunday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Adams had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the Thunder's 131-103 victory. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Steven Adams gets ready to dunk the basketball beside San Antonio's Marco Belinelli and Lonnie Walker IV during Sunday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Adams had 21 points and 14 rebounds in the Thunder's 131-103 victory. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2f0757741e4712be315f77bc91f1fc22.jpg" alt="Photo - Thunder center Steven Adams recently flew back to Oklahoma City from New Zealand ahead of the NBA season restart, arriving to a place much different than the one he left 7,500 miles behind. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Thunder center Steven Adams recently flew back to Oklahoma City from New Zealand ahead of the NBA season restart, arriving to a place much different than the one he left 7,500 miles behind. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Thunder center Steven Adams recently flew back to Oklahoma City from New Zealand ahead of the NBA season restart, arriving to a place much different than the one he left 7,500 miles behind. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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