Oklahoma City’s general manager Sam Presti addressed the media for about 35 minutes Friday afternoon talking about the two transactions the Thunder had yesterday.
The quote that really hung with me as I walked out of the Thunder’s practice facility was, “The focus is on the organization. The players are part of the organization.” I think that right there should explain yesterday’s events to you more than anything.
As difficult as it was to part with a player that was so much a part of the team as Jeff Green, it was necessary. And Presti knew it. He spoke at length about how tough the move was to make, but how his job is to make this franchise competitive in the present, as well as the future.
“We’re all professionals. We understand that it’s a business,” Presti said. “And you have to move after you get past that initial stage of surprise.”
One tough moment: When Presti was asked to talk about Jeff Green and his contributions to the franchise, Presti started speaking about what a terrific human Green is, but it was obvious Presti wasn’t going to be talking long. After about 10 seconds, tears welled in Presti’s eyes and he had to just cut himself off. It was an emotional, candid moment that you don’t typically see from Presti.
Not gonna lie. I felt like bawling at that moment too. It’s just basketball, yes. I think we all realize we’re talking about a game grown men play in shorts. But there are emotional connections. People become close friends. And it’s tough to see someone go that you’ve grown close to whether actually by knowing them personally, or through or more existential relationship.
But Presti’s short moment showed just how much Green meant to the franchise on, and off the court. He was a valued member of the community and a great person to have in our city. And of course the fear there is, with Uncle Jeff gone, is that going to upset the incredible chemistry and bond the team had built?
“I think any time you make a change or someone comes in or someone leaves, that you’re going to change a dynamic a little bit. But I also have a lot of faith in our group as a whole. I think that’s one of our strengths,” Presti said. “One of the things we understand is that any time you make additions throughout the season there’s going to be an adjustment period. We understand that. And we respect that. That’s part of the business. At the same time, as I evaluated the situation, I felt like the opportunity to add the players that we had and bring a player like Perkins into the fold was an opportunity we needed to take advantage of.
“I have unbelievable respect for [Green] as a player and a person. He’s a selfless person and he’s incredibly talented,” Presti continued. “We’re thankful for what he’s contributed to this organization. By the same token, I have to make really tough decisions in this job and that’s part of my responsibly that I carry every day for this organization.”
That stuff aside, Presti definitely seemed excited about the future. He talked glowingly about what Perkins can contribute speaking of his toughness, physicality and defensive prowess. One thing Presti point out that I hadn’t realized was that this actually makes the Thunder younger. Into the starting five comes Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Ibaka is three years younger than Green and Perkins two years younger than Krstic. As usual, Presti makes a smart point.
Perkins (and the other players) will have their physicals later Friday and Presti wouldn’t go into great detail as to what that will entail, but he seemed very confident there won’t be any hangups.
I was kind of curious as to what pressed Presti to make this move. Since there had been so much discussion about Green’s value and place in terms of position and lineups, I asked Presti if he took into account Green’s mostly dismal plus/minus numbers.
“We look at everything when we try and make a decision, not just one area,” Presti said. “I think everyone that’s watches our team or has watched Jeff over the course of his career, or even in college, knows that a lot of the things he’s brings to your team or organization aren’t represented in numbers alone.