When Sam Presti approached the microphone in a simple blue denim button-down and rolled-up sleeves, Thunder loyalists tuned in to hear him speak. The executive vice president and general manager, as he approaches his 15th year with the organization, set the expectations for Thunder fans heading into 2022-23 as he talked about how young the current roster is, the obstacles they will face, and how the franchise is approaching the next NBA season.
The common theme in the lengthy opening statement centered around patience and practicality. Presti really relied on the fact that the team is incredibly young, saying, “We expect to be probably the second youngest team in NBA history,” Thunder GM said. “I don’t think anyone would say we’re not a work in progress.”
In fact, Thunder is a work in progress after finishing last in the league in various stats that measure a team’s success. The average age of the current active roster is 23.2 years. If you remove the two oldest players from the equation, veteran players Mike Moskala and Derek Vevers, that number drops to just 22.2 — a lower age than some of the drafted players. And if last season is any indication, the Favors and Muscala aren’t expecting to play as many minutes as they can.
When discussing the challenges Thunder will face this season, Presti made sure to stress that he wants the team to focus on competing physically, mentally and emotionally, noting how hard it is for the young pros to do so year in and year out. . Then the general manager brought up the topic of distractions, calling them “a headwind for young teams in sports.” He also warned his players not to be overly concerned with statistics and achievements, and to share how they might fit into the team framework.
Presti also explained how communication can affect the younger players in Oklahoma City.
“They connect with people who are not with the team, and those people’s incentives may not be the best for the team,” they cautioned, “letting others set the agenda for what is important or what should be priorities.”
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The 44-year-old CEO set his sights on social media calling it cool and saying he could be positive before exclaiming, “It really has nothing to do with winning basketball games. If anything, it’s probably directing.” More towards tempting you away from it.”
Presti added that he believes the sooner young teams understand this distraction, the better, and called to avoid it, “the price of acceptance for being an NBA player.”
As the Thunder iteration prepares for the start of the season, the organization appears to be working proactively to address these challenges and keep the team focused on basketball. With the slight increase in social media use and mental health awareness in the modern NBA, the franchise has cut its business for them. However, Presti doesn’t seem too concerned about distractions. “I think our guys are interested in this stuff.”
The general manager also made it clear that he thinks he has a very long runway with this particular team, as he shared his excitement about the prospects for Josh Gedi and Chet Holmgren’s tenures overlapping with the upcoming Prime Shay Gilgus-Alexander. Presti says some players have improved physically over the summer and pleaded with members of the media to take note. He also explained that he believes the team can be successful in the short term if they prepare and prioritize the right things, saying, “I think we have a chance to be good.”
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