Turmoil in the Mecca sprouts rumors with OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti in the mix

OKC Thunder rumor mill: NEW YORK, NY - MAY 8: Steve Mills, David Fizdale and Scott Perry of the New York Knicks (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder rumor mill: NEW YORK, NY - MAY 8: Steve Mills, David Fizdale and Scott Perry of the New York Knicks (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The turmoil in the Mecca is sprouting rumors left and right with OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti in the mix. It’s a moot point for now, but also extremely unlikely to happen.

While the OKC Thunder fan base knows their team won’t likely earn a playoff berth and are in the ‘reposition and replenish’ mode (aka rebuild) Thunder Nation is getting the best of both worlds. In nine of the 11 games played the squad brought the effort to the hardwood and pushed teams right to the final buzzer to decide the victor.

Granted, we’ll want to see some of these games ending up with W’s. It doesn’t mean we’re being delusional with expectations of the Thunder pushing for a playoff berth.

Rather, it’s something equally important and this is for the young core to learn what it takes to win those tough matches to utilize in the future. It’s about the young guys not falling into the mindset of losing is okay.

The middle ground is precisely what the club is currently doing – fighting for wins and eventually winning some of those close contests.

On the other end of the spectrum is the New York Knicks. A franchise mired in quicksand more because of their ownership than anything.  James Dolan is considered arguably the worst owner in the league whose meddling and treatment of management, players and even the fans is disturbing.

This week the spotlight increased on the Knicks as presumably, Dolan forced Team President Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry to conduct a postgame media session. Something virtually unheard of – unless a franchise is discussing a major trade or serious injury.

The seeming take is Mills was setting the groundwork to fire Head Coach David Fizdale. Bad losses at home are amping up the pressure (clearly from Dolan).

In truth, the finger could just as easily be pointed at Mills and Perry who signed numerous free agents who virtually all play the same position.

Today, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News chimed in on the situation which has ties to the OKC Thunder in that the rumor is if upper management is fired the two people Dolan is most covetous of bringing in to run the team are Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors or Sam Presti of the OKC Thunder.

"If the Knicks replace Fizdale during the season — presumably with an interim coach — president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry would then find themselves in the crosshairs. On that front, there is already speculation around the league about potential front office replacements, with two names surfacing most often: Toronto president Masai Ujiri and Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti."

So, clearly the question is would either Ujiri or Presti be swayed? Reportedly Dolan is prepared to pay through the nose to gain either of them. But, there is more to life than money and in the case of the Knicks, the drama and lack of autonomy for management would play a much greater factor.

Dolan can tell Sam or Masai I’ll give you full power but when he’s forcing his management team to hold a press conference 10 games into the season how believable is that?

As for Ujiri ownership is smitten with the President of Raptors Basketball Operations. After doing what was necessary to win an NBA Title his stock with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is at an all-time high.

The fans in the city and country treat him like a rock star. He has autonomy and the support for his true love ‘Giants of Africa’ and Basketball without Borders. And on top of all that he has Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet. Enough said.

In terms of Presti, he has a solid working relationship with owner Clay Bennett and having cut his teeth in the small market of San Antonio is comfortable in OKC.

Moreover, Presti for all intents and purposes should feel like a kid in a candy store equipped with a club that has Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Hamidou Diallo in development plus a closet so full of draft picks he can’t open it to hang his coat.

This is the type of situation General Managers covet – a chance to put their own stamp on the creation of a team and in Presti’s case, it’s his second such opportunity with even more ammunition.

Bondy suggests Presti would be swayed by a big market:

"Presti, meanwhile, sprouted from the Spurs tree and has served as the Thunder’s GM since 2007. He drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden but has been hamstrung by running a team in one the league’s smallest markets. After 12 years in OKC, it’s easy to envision him being tempted by New York."

Tonight the Knicks host the Dallas Mavericks which will up the ante and spotlight again as Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic arrive in the Mecca. Porzingis was traded to the Mavs after the two sides relationship diminished and while the big man was recovering from a torn ACL.

Although Porzingis is back he’s still finding his legs after being out of competitive action for over a year and a half. There are critics who aren’t sure he’ll ascend into the superstar realm but I’m on the other side of the coin believing he just needs time to get his legs back if you will. Plus he’s playing beside a future league MVP.

Just like Paul George didn’t resemble the player he was prior to his injury in his first year back we need to also give Porzingis time to reacclimate.

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It’s not simply that Porzingis is back on the MSG hardwood for the first time but how the Knicks perform and specifically the players who were part of the trade package.

Dennis Smith Jr. was the centerpiece of that trade plus DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews who are no longer in New York. DSJ has fallen well short of expectations and may eventually evolve but the jury definitely remains out.

At this point, the real value from the trade was the two draft picks Dallas sent —  the 2021 first-round pick as well as the 2023 pick (top 10 protected).

Again put yourself in Sam Presti’s shoes and consider what he would prefer. A Knicks team with only RJ Barrett untouchable and two additional first-round picks, an interfering owner, an active and large base of daily media who aren’t as open to ‘we don’t discuss that’ rhetoric and oh that owner.

OR— a great working relationship with Bennett, a city you love, some inspiring young talents on the roster, viable vets who can be traded to gain more assets and picks and oh yeah – that closet with his coat hanging on the doorknob.

Moving forward, the likelihood of Fizdale getting fired feels certain – it is simply a matter of when. Likewise, Perry and Mills seem equally unsafe.

Stranger things have happened, still, if I had to put money on it Sam Presti and Masai Ujiri would be the last people I would expect to be enticed by the Knicks and Dolan.

Next. Sam Presti offers 5 key insights for 2019-20 campaign. dark

I have true empathy for the Knicks fan base because they are among the most knowledgeable basketball fans I’ve ever interacted with. But as long as James Dolan is the owner, sadly, it feels like an uphill battle on ice sheet covered mountain.