The Oklahoma City Thunder currently have the best record in the NBA at 29-7, but they’ve come a long way to get here. During the 2008-09 season, their first year in Oklahoma City after moving from Seattle, the Thunder went 23-59. Can you believe that was only three years ago?
The man behind the scenes of the Thunder’s success is a man named Sam Presti, the team’s General Manager. Presti drafted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, hired coach Scott Brooks and put in the rest of the pieces to make a championship-caliber team. But years before all this happened, he made a huge impact on the San Antonio Spurs.
In 2001, Presti was just a 25-year-old intern for the Spurs. Former Spurs assistant coach and current Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike Brownsaid Presti was really into music and actually made him a few CDs. Brown said you could tell Presti was bright.
Brown was right.
Presti convinced the Spurs to take a look at a 19-year-old Frenchman by the name of Tony Parker. And after the Spurs agreed to give Parker a workout and he didn’t do so well, Presti persuaded the Spurs to give him a second chance.
“We worked him out and he was terrible,” Brown said. “We walked away as coaches like, ‘Man, we’re wasting our time.’ We told Tony that he needed to develop a medium game because he was quick. He couldn’t really shoot the ball and all he could really do was get to the rim, but against 7-footers that’s going to be hard to do all the time. We were done with him after that and Sam and R.C. [Buford] convinced us to bring him back for a second workout in San Antonio.”
It was that second workout that got the Spurs hooked on Tony Parker and left them hoping and praying that he would fall to them at the 28th pick. When he did, the rest, as they say, is history. The Spurs have had more than a decade of success with Parker and it set Presti on a path to success.
“This is a guy who had been in the league a year or two years at the time that it happened,” Brown said of Presti. ”You knew good things were going to happen to him.”