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Scott Howard-Cooper

Thunder GM Sam Presti (in this post-Draft night photo) has become one of the league's best GMs.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

OKC's trade for Perkins showcases GM Presti's value, too

Posted Mar 4 2011 10:00AM

• The big-picture perspective of the Thunder trading for and then signing Kendrick Perkins -- who may be the defensive center OKC has long sought -- to an extension is that GM Sam Presti has become one of five best acquisitions of any role in the last four years. Certainly he's among the top two for non-players, challenged only by Knicks personnel boss Donnie Walsh. It's a particularly amazing consideration since Presti, unlike others who were more like obvious additions, was a risky hire by the SuperSonics in 2007. He was 30 and had never run a front office. Yet the ensuing string of successful decisions, with the Perkins deal impacting the entire league if it goes as OKC plans, while maintaining a streamlined payroll makes Seattle's call four years ago seem like a no-brainer.

The Lakers getting Pau Gasol, the Celtics landing Kevin Garnett and the Thunder drafting Kevin Durant are the only moves in the last four years that rank ahead of the Sonics/Thunder picking Presti as the first step in a quick rise from the lottery to years of playoff runs. Maybe LeBron James to the Heat gets there, but it's too early to know. Maybe Blake Griffin to the Clippers -- his presence has been that transformative -- but it's also way too early to know. Derrick Rose/Bulls is a good candidate, as is Walsh/Knicks. The turn to defense in Chicago puts the Tom Thibodeau hiring as coach in the mix for the second grouping.

The concern in trading Jeff Green to Boston for Perkins is that it puts a non-scoring power forward (Serge Ibaka) next to a non-scoring center in OKC. Getting Durant some minutes at "4" addresses that. If nothing else, acquiring Perkins puts a temporary end to reminders about Tyson Chandler once briefly being in their grasp, only to flunk him on the physical and cancel a trade with the Hornets. The Thunder will be very glad to halt that conversation, especially in the season Chandler has re-asserted himself in Dallas as a defensive presence.


The only real surprise in the otherwise-predictable outcome of the Kings leaving Sacramento if they get the right deal in Anaheim is that it's the Maloof brothers doing the leaving. Owners Joe and Gavin Maloof are so insistent in coming across as good guys -- which is part of the problem -- that it always seemed more likely to some insiders that the emotional brothers would sell and let someone else play the villain before kicking the city in the stomach themselves. Obviously not anymore. But worth keeping in mind among the questions coming in whether Sacramento has any chance to keep the team: If the Maloofs had an Anaheim deal they loved, they would have taken it by now.

Interesting perspective from Gregg Popovich, who should know. The Spurs coach is saying a primary factor in the climb from 50-32 in 2009-10 to 67-win pace is that Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess are in their second season with the team, just as Fabricio Oberto went from bad to important contributor in his second campaign as part of the 2007 title team. Jefferson and Blair in particular have made big advances, while McDyess has had a slightly reduced role.

The Clippers are conceding that seven weeks under the heat lamps of attention resulted in their worst fears: Blake Griffin being worn down by a crushing schedule and attention as much as by swarming defenses. Well, not their worst fears. Video He did clear the car. But the journey from national TV games to the media swirl of Madison Square Garden to the nonstop All-Star Weekend to the Video first game as a pro in his hometown of Oklahoma City was undeniably draining. "It wears you down, there's no question," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I don't care how old or young you are or whatever. He's back right now in terms of getting his energy back. I know he was worn down after All-Star weekend." In the other concern, the demands only grow if he stays on track to stardom.

The schizophrenic Hornets keep wasting chances. Two long winning streaks immediately morphed into slumps as give-backs in the standings, and most recently they failed to capitalize on a soft schedule with six defeats in eight games -- losses that included the Warriors, Rockets and Raptors. New Orleans, starting tonight at Memphis, plays three of its final 19 contests against a Grizzlies team a half-game back in the standings. This is when the bottom of the West playoff bracket really starts to quake.

The Jerry West autobiography originally expected early this season is now scheduled for release Oct, 3, 2011, according to publisher Little, Brown and Company. West has promised an intimate, sometimes-painful look at his complex life in the project written with Jonathan Coleman. It should be good. The accompanying promotional tour may be better. Even in reserved moments, West will command any book signing or television appearance with emotions so raw that clips of The Logo tearing up, or more, will be replayed nonstop.

When West got his statue unveiled outside Staples Center last month as part of the All-Star festivities in Los Angeles, his son gestured to Bill Russell, among the VIPs on stage, and said, "You made our childhood hell." The crowd laughed. But there was a very, very, very good chance David West was not kidding. The constant losing to the Celtics still sears his father, Jerry, some 45 years later. Imagine the tension in the household when it was happening.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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