Sam Presti is a big music guy, a fact that was woven throughout his preseason press conference Thursday at Thunder headquarters.
“Save your predictions, burn your assumptions,” Presti said midway through his 30-minute opening statement.
Rock fans might recognize the line.
It’s from Pearl Jam’s “Dance of the Clairvoyants.” Pearl Jam performed in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, and Presti was there with his son, Nick, who was attending his first-ever concert.
Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam’s lead vocalist, even gave a shout out to Sam and his son.
“He was late to school the next day,” Presti said. “It’s funny because he told his teacher why he was late to school, and the good thing is she said that she was there, too.”
Presti has gotten to know the band members, who were massive SuperSonics fans given their Seattle roots. It’s easy to understand if Vedder and Co. are unwilling to jump aboard the Thunder bandwagon.
“They kind of took the temperature down on that topic a little bit, and I do think it’s important to also recognize that Seattle is an incredible place,” Presti said.
“They will have a basketball team again, and I think all of us here think that’s a positive thing. We’re hopeful that happens because it’s a great place, great fans, and the arena that they’ve built there, it’s spectacular. So when it happens, it’s going to be great.”
Here’s what else we learned from Presti:
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➤ It’s too soon to say if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left MCL sprain) will be healthy by the season opener Oct. 19 at Minnesota: “We’d love for him to be ready,” Presti said, “but we can’t make predictions like that because nature is uncooperative.”
➤ Presti said Gilgeous-Alexander sustained the injury during a recent workout. Gilgeous-Alexander finished the workout and “didn’t have any pain at all,” Presti said. Gilgeous-Alexander felt sore the next morning and an MRI revealed the sprain.
➤ Presti quickly dismissed any long-term durability concerns with SGA. “All of these injuries seem unrelated, so no,” Presti said. After playing 152 games over his first two NBA seasons, SGA has played in 91 games over the last two seasons. He dealt with a plantar fascia tear two seasons ago and an ankle injury last season.
➤ After initially planning to exercise Lu Dort’s team option for next season, the Thunder reversed course this offseason and declined Dort’s option, making him a restricted free agent. Once free agency opened, Dort and the Thunder agreed to a five-year, $87.5 million extension. “There is a desire for him to be part of the organization going forward,” Presti said. “There is a desire for the team to want him to be part of the organization.”
➤ Dort, who signed with the Thunder as an undrafted free agent, is entering his fourth NBA season. Last season he averaged 17.2 points per game while playing elite defense. “People forget how young he is because he’s been around a little while,” Presti said. “He’s still getting better.”
➤ Presti called Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort the “Molson Twins” — a nod to the Canadian brewery. Gilgeous-Alexander, from Hamilton, Ontario, and Dort, from Montreal, are best friends.
➤ Dort, who had offseason shoulder surgery, is healthy entering training camp.
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Thunder roster crunch
➤ The Thunder has 18 players signed to a standard contract, which puts it three players over the 15-man limit. “I’m confident that we’re going to end up releasing some guys that are NBA players that I think will go on and play well,” Presti said.
➤ The competition in training camp will be another data point for Presti and the front office to make their final roster decisions: “We could experience another injury. I hope that doesn’t happen. Trades don’t generally get made around this time, but that could happen. Someone could play exceptionally well during camp. That’s what competition is.”
The Vasilije Micic mystery
➤ Presti was asked about Serbian guard Vasilije Micic, who’s arguably the best European player who’s not in the NBA. “He’s really taken off since the time in which we acquired his rights,” Presti said.
➤ The Thunder acquired the rights to Micic from Philadelphia in the Al Horford trade. Since then, there’s been a stream of reports out of Europe that Micic is weighing a move to the NBA, but nothing has ever come of it.
➤ “All I can tell you is I thought we were pretty close at one time,” Presti said. “He is on a contract, and he’s committed over there. But I wouldn’t rule anything out. It’s probably a year-to-year thing.”
➤ “I don’t even know that there’s more than a conversation that is taking place,” Presti said when he was asked about the timeline for a new arena. Presti talked about the close relationship between the Thunder organization and city officials.
➤ Presti said it’s too soon to say what roles the Thunder rookies will have: “A lot of that is Mark (Daigneault) sitting down and figuring out how do we maximize and optimize the development for everybody.”
➤ Regarding rookie Ousmane Dieng, “obviously we have a lot longer leash based on his age and who he is,” Presti said.
➤ Presti was complimentary of Aleksej Pokusevski’s progress: “He’s had every opportunity to kind of fold and he hasn’t done that. He’s better. I think he’s had a good summer.”
➤ Presti, not wanting to get fined, declined to address discussions around a new collective bargaining agreement.