Sam Presti Rumors
The Thunder’s front office put a plan in place in July 2016 to answer one simple question: How do they go from the middle back to the upper tier again, without bottoming out? They identified stars to pair with Westbrook, the more available the better, and George was as the top of the list. “He’s done an amazing job. He’s done a great job ever since I’ve been here,” Westbrook said of Presti. “He’s finding ways to constantly keep making us a better team. … You definitely are very, very thankful to have somebody like that in charge of making those decisions.”
Whether this trio works out, the Thunder’s front office put a plan in place in July 2016 to answer one simple question: How do they go from the middle back to the upper tier again, without bottoming out? They identified stars to pair with Westbrook, the more available the better, and George was as the top of the list. “He’s done an amazing job. He’s done a great job ever since I’ve been here,” Russell Westbrook said of Thunder GM Sam Presti. “He’s finding ways to constantly keep making us a better team. You know … you definitely are very, very thankful to have somebody like that in charge of making those decisions.”
Sam Presti is a longtime jazz fan while Billy Donovan says he is not familiar with the genre of music. Both, however, have huge respect for superstar brothers Branford and Wynton Marsalis, who have combined to win 12 Grammy awards. Presti said that “nonbasketball learning” is important to the Thunder organization. Presti and Donovan sat with Branford Marsalis hours before he performed with his quartet at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Mitchell Hall Theatre on Sept. 8. Donovan also had a long conversation with Wynton Marsalis this summer. The reason? To pick the jazz legends’ minds about teamwork and philosophy in a jazz band as it relates to basketball.
“When I met Branford in person and talked to Wynton on the phone, I was blown away on their mentality in terms of sport, music and society and just how much it’s about making the people around you better,” Donovan said. “In team sports, it’s not necessarily about, ‘Hey, I want to play my music.’ Sometimes you have to listen to other people’s music and how to make the group better by listening. I thought their messaging, background and being basketball fans and sports fans, both were incredible. I just loved listening to those guys. Those guys, in their industry, they’re legends. I have not listened to a lot of jazz music, but I know those two names.”
“Music and sports are such a metaphor for so many things in the world,” Sam Presti said. “They both involve having to listen and react and interpret different things. For the conversation in general, I asked him, ‘How do you continue to grow and learn? How do you know what is quality? How do you find that?’ And obviously, the art form itself with Branford and his craft, so much of it is about listening and really hearing what the other people are doing. It’s really fascinating to listen to him talk about that as well as his preparation and the way he has taken his career path. It was a pretty wide-ranging conversation, to be honest. It was interesting to hear him speak about that stuff. A couple things stood out to me. With him, the thing that was really cool was his respect and reverence for the people that he grew up listening to. He still listens to those records endlessly and learns from them. And the emphasis he placed on listening and hearing different things from the same recording. I thought that was really because he basically put such an emphasis on going back and listening to those specific artists, the greats, and there is so much knowledge wrapped up in there. The other thing that stuck out to me was never wanting to repeat yourself and stretching yourself to try new things.”
“Those people really mean a lot to me to this day,” he says. “No matter if they talk to me or they’re mad at me. Whether it’s Sam Presti or Troy Weaver or Russell Westbrook or Nick Collison. Whether it’s Wilson Taylor or Clay Bennett and his family, I love them from the bottom of my heart. We’re not talking, but eventually we will.
“I didn’t have that perspective at first. I didn’t have it when I went back to OKC. I was like, ‘F–k all of them.’ I didn’t have it when they gave my number away. I was, ‘F–k all of them.’ My best friend works for the team, I told him, ‘F–k all y’all. That’s f–ked up.’ Then I had to get out of my head, tell myself, ‘It’s not that serious, it is what it is.’ I understand it’s not my number anymore, they can do whatever they want with it, but you hand that number to a two-way player, you’ve got to be, like, ‘Nah, we’ve got too many good memories with this number, man.’ But at some point, that thing’s going to be in the rafters anyway; it’s all good. I did something they didn’t like. They did something I didn’t like. S–t happens. If I was on my death bed, I guarantee you Sam Presti and Russell Westbrook would come check on me. So I’m going to look at it that way rather than the other way.”