I had the pleasure of chatting with Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti after Tulsa secured a 99-96 win over the Utah Flash at the D-League Showcase on Tuesday. Here's our conversation...
Q: The 66ers have vastly improved this year. The Thunder has vastly improved as well. Are the two related?
Presti: We're pleased that we're making progress with both teams. Both teams still have a long ways to go, and we're going to continue to look for ways to improve both teams. We think our efforts makes these teams an even more valuable item to the fans in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Q: Defense seems to be one of the keys to both teams' improvement, correct?
Presti: We wanted to focus on defense in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. It's important for us to continue to grow defensively as an organization, and Tulsa is a part of that organization. We try to duplicate all of our processes at the D-League level, and it will take time and persistence for that to pay off.
Q: How important is it to have Tulsa and OKC so close and have such a close working relationship between the two?
Presti: It's a tremendous advantage for us. The ability to assign a player to Tulsa and watch him continue to develop is critical. The coaching staff that's present in Tulsa was with us during the summer and Tulsa is running a system that is identical to the one we're running in Oklahoma City. It's great to have the opporutnity to not only have up-and-coming players in Tulsa, but up-and-coming coaches as well.
We feel like we're much further ahead in terms of synergy than we were last year, and we've put more energy and focus into building that synergy. We're committed to continuing to build that synergy. The players and coaches in Tulsa are part of the Thunder family.
Q: D.J. White is currently assigned to the 66ers. Talk about his progress.
Presti: D.J. did a tremendous job this summer and we're very pleased with his progress. He’s a hard-working, humble, team-first player and those are qualities that provide a great platform for a player on the NBA level.
Q: The Thunder seems to gravitate toward players you just described, right?
Presti: We're not the judge and jury on people as people. We try to identify people who can best fit into our system. We try to find players who are professional, have a strong work ethic, and will be strong citizens.
Q: You recently recalled Byron Mullens from Tulsa. What are some of the things you saw him improve while he was in Tulsa?
Presti: One of the things we wanted was for him to develop a better rhythm on the court. The development staff in Oklahoma City had specific goals for him while he was in Tulsa. It wasn't about how many points he could score. There are more finer points in learning our system than just scoring. He had to be on the floor to be able to learn that, and Tulsa provided the perfect place for that to happen.
Q: Oklahoma City is a young team. Tulsa is a young team. Youth seems to be an important thing to your organization, correct?
Presti: We want to develop young guys. We want to get to know them and work with them. If they go on to do bigger and better things with other teams, we'll know that the Thunder had a hand in their development.