Entering the Thunder’s Second Half-Decade
In his hometown in the suburbs of Boston, on a street he had walked on millions of times, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti saw something that took him by surprise. As he slowly drove through his old neighborhood, a child was cruising by on a skateboard. In his mind’s eye, the kid would have been Presti himself a couple decades ago, but what was remarkably different about this quiet street was that the boy was wearing an Oklahoma City Thunder t-shirt.
It seems like a blink of an eye in some respects, but also a long and rewarding process thus far, that the Thunder now enters the second half of its first decade as an NBA franchise. After five successful years in Oklahoma City, the Thunder embarks on its sixth campaign continuing to try to create a distinct culture and build a legacy for generations to come.
“We take a lot of pride in what that logo stands for and ultimately what we want it to stand for. It’s one of the things that gets us motivated each year,” Presti said.
The identity of an NBA organization can’t be cemented in just a few short years, but in the upcoming seasons, the team can lay a foundation and set significant pillars to guide the team for its next decade of existence. With that in mind, the Thunder never forgets the responsibility it has to building together daily in addition to placing a heavy emphasis on the long-term good of the organization as a whole. The way players can impact that is by their work ethic at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center as the team tries to improve in a variety of areas from last season to the 2013-14 campaign. The team is excited to build on its past experiences, and is confident heading into the new season with both the pieces it has in place and the squad's ability to improve.
“The growth continues to be in the areas of attention to detail, spacing—all the things that (Head Coach) Scott (Brooks) is preaching on a regular basis—and execution,” Presti said. “The difference between consistently playing at the highest level and I think our team is mature enough and established enough to really embrace that challenge, and I feel very confident that we’ll be able to take a step forward in those areas.”
Fortunately for the Thunder, the standards for how much, how hard and the attitude with which players work to get better have been established by young leaders like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, in addition to Nick Collison, the team’s longest tenured member. Young members of the core like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb join veterans like Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, all of whom view themselves as unfinished products, regardless of age. There is a chance to grow in every facet of the game, which is why every player regardless of role, finds a way to develop and improve with the assistance of all of the resources the Thunder provides.
“We have a group of guys who are self-starters on their own, have high standards and are guys that have been here and were a part of the first team that ever wore a Thunder uniform,” Presti said. “Those guys have ownership over the culture and standards that are in place. They strive each day and each year to try and meet those and push those forward.”
“Development is an ongoing process for every player,” Presti explained. “It’s not just younger players. I don’t think development is something that is age-based. We like to think that we have a responsibility to try to improve every player that we have.”
A major benefit the Thunder has heading into this season is the continuity on the roster. Each team in the NBA comes back different from year-to-year, even if they return all 15 players from the previous season. As a result, the Thunder’s core will be relied upon to bring along new players and younger members of the team, while the coaching staff is charged with the responsibility of getting the most out of the roster by putting each player in the best position to succeed. The shared successes and failures of the team, particularly its core, provides a sense of mutual trust and security to handle any circumstances that lay ahead.
“They’ve enjoyed a lot of high performance and a lot of winning, but they’ve also gone through some valleys as well and had to deal with some adversities together,” Presti said. “We really value the fact that a lot of these guys share the same scars. Continuity, experience, and the fact that these guys have been together a while are all things that have us excited about the year.”
“Our job, over the course of 82 games, is to figure out how everybody fits together and how that group is best maximized and hopefully we’ll be playing our best basketball at the end of the year,” Presti continued.
Over the years in Oklahoma City, the nucleus of the team has experienced highs and lows but has remained committed to one another and maintained a consistent approach through it all. Heading into the 2013-14 season, with training camp starting this weekend, the Thunder knows that by staying even keeled and mentally strong in addition to sticking to its principles and striving to improve every day, the organization can be successful.