Presti: 'We Have a Very Healthy Respect for What’s Ahead of Us'

With Training Camp 2011 expected to begin Friday, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti met with the media Wednesday inside the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center.

“We’re really excited about getting back to playing basketball,” he said, “and I think our guys are really excited, too.”

Most of the Thunder players are back in Oklahoma City, or soon will be, and Presti said he is impressed with what he has seen of the team so far.

“It’s actually been a good look at what we have, because what we’ve seen is a group of guys who we were confidant in going into the summer that were committed to improve and get better and by the looks of the group as a whole, I think it’s a testament to their commitment level.”

Presti said there are some key items the organization will stress in moving forward.

“One is, just the commitment to the same approach we’ve had in place the last couple years. Two, we need to continue to evolve in the areas that are associated with high-performing teams and three, when we talk about expectations, expectations for us remain the same they’ve always been. They’re based on the internal standards that we have established and live by on a day-to-day basis within the walls of our practice facility," he said. "Lastly, being an organization and a team that is focused on how we are going to go about accomplishing our goals and not just talking about what we want to accomplish.”

Presti stressed that approach will not change just because the season has been compressed. No shortcuts for the Thunder.

“We have to take the same approach," he said. "We have to be an organization that grinds out our work every day without expectation or entitlement.”

Outside the organization those expectations are high. After all, the Thunder reached the NBA Western Conference Finals last season.

“Our expectations, when we talk about them, are consistent. We want to be a team that plays with a defensive disposition; we want to be a team that brings an intensity level to the floor each time we take the court," he said. "We want to be a team that displays discipline during periods of success, during periods of adversity and also during periods of monotony that take place during an NBA year.”

The results of last season, 55 regular-season wins, a deep run in the playoffs, will no doubt add to the foundation of success the Thunder is building. But Presti said he and his staff and players will not rest on those laurels.

“We have a very healthy respect for what’s ahead of us. We understand that last season’s over and we need to go back to square one and continue the process," he said. "When it comes to our achievement level, we want to be able to prove to ourselves that we’ll make the necessary sacrifices to be considered an elite team year in and year out.”

There are more challenges this season than most. Training Camp will be about half as long as usual, the regular-season schedule jams 66 games into roughly four months. The Thunder will play one set of back-to-back-to-back games. There won’t be as much time to rest during the season, nor as much time to practice and prepare.

Presti will make no excuses.

“We’ve never really focused on looking at or over analyzing the schedule," he said. "We’ve got to play the amount of games everyone else has to. Everyone will face many of the same challenges so looking at it we’re just focusing on the first game and how we can be best prepared to play on the 25th.”

Presti said he expects to have all of the players in Oklahoma City by Thursday night and ready to hit the practice court Friday.

During a normal Training Camp, the Thunder would bring in three or four extra non-roster players for practice purposes. Presti said he and Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks are still deciding if additional players will be added.

“Sometimes you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We’re prepared, we will be adaptable but we’re still approaching this like every other season we have," he said. "The commitment to our standards will not change.”

The Thunder will play two pre-season games against the Dallas Mavericks -- the first in Dallas on Dec. 18 and the second two nights later on Dec. 20 inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The regular season begins on Christmas Night when the Thunder hosts the Orlando Magic.