By Randy Renner
Another summer is over and it's time to get ready for the seventh season of Thunder basketball in Oklahoma City.
Wow has it really been that long?
"It's really kind of hard to imagine that this is going to be our seventh year here," Thunder GM Sam Presti began his news conference on Thursday. So yeah it's been that long.
And for much of that time the Thunder have been contenders for an NBA Championship and are being picked this season by many hoops experts to again make it back to the Western Conference Finals and many of those same experts are saying this may be OKC's year to win it all.
"We're really excited," Presti said last week. "We're really looking forward to this season."
Clearly Presti believes something special could end up happening by the time this coming season has ended but he also said you can't get distracted by looking too far down the road.
"I think the purpose is not what we want to accomplish, but how. How do we want to do things? We're trying to build an incredibly competitive championship-level team that has a chance (to compete for a title) year after year after year. It takes purpose to do that. We can't look too far ahead, we have to stay in the moment. We feel like we've got a great opportunity in front of us if we take it that way."
Despite some criticism from outside the organization Presti has not wavered from that philosophy and it has worked well. The Thunder have been to the Western Conference Finals three times and to the NBA Finals once.
The team's top three homegrown players, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka (all drafted by Presti) are now listed among the Top 20 players in the NBA, as ranked by Sports Illustrated. The Thunder is the only team with three players in the Top 20 and the only one with two in the Top 5.
"Obviously we're really pleased with those guys," Presti said, "not only with what they've accomplished but with who they are as people, competitors and ambassadors."
And Presti, even after several seasons with those guys, doesn't think they've reached their peak.
"I think their best basketball is in front of them. We've been saying that for seven years and we'll keep saying that for a little while."
After all Durant has just now turned 26 and Westbrook and Ibaka are still 25.
"They've set the standards we work by on a day-to-day basis here. They're the first through the doors and they'll do a great job with that for many, many years."
MEDIA DAY TODAY
Thunder players and head coach Scott Brooks will meet with reporters today to talk about the coming season and then the team will hold its first formal practice session on Tuesday.
A couple players are hobbled and won't be able to participate fully. Center Kendrick Perkins injured a quad muscle last week during voluntary workouts and is expected to miss the first couple weeks of camp. Grant Jerrett continues to recover from off-season foot surgery, he's expected to miss most if not all of training camp. Perry Jones III and Nick Collison are now fully recovered from their off-season knee procedures and will hit camp with no restrictions on their activities.
We'll have complete coverage of Media Day here on InsideThunder.com