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Loud Links: May 29, 2009

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In this edition of Loud Links, you’ll learn that Sam Presti is a genius (shocking, I know). Hoopsworld has written another excellent article about the Thunder, this time they are focusing on Presti. Speaking of Presti, I’ll post a few articles from the last week or so about Presti and the Thunder organization. Another interesting link discusses how GM’s are looking for a Westbrook-type surprise in this year’s draft. There is also some discussion about the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. It sound likes the agents are ruining the team’s chances to actually get a good look at the prospects in action against each other. There is news of NBA referee Violet Palmer leaving the NBA. Big news? I doubt it, but I’m happy. The last time she was in the Ford Center she was calling way too many charging fouls against the Thunder, so good ridden (just playing, I wish her the best in her new career choice). Are there wedding bells out there? Well Nenad Krstic  was recently seen at Marck Jaric and Adriana Lima's wedding in Serbia. Another member of the Thunder actually does say "I do". Who is it? Well just keep reading.

The Genius of Sam Presti

Hoopsworld | Susan Bible | May 28, 2009... Presti was promoted to assistant director of scouting in 2002, then director of player personnel, and finally, assistant general manager in 2005. He became regarded as a salary cap wizard with intuitive scouting skills, plus designed the Spurs' scouting database (which relies heavily on quantitative and analytical data to determine a player's worth), and is now used by other NBA teams as well. In an October 2006 story in the San Antonio Express-News, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called Presti the team's "resident genius," while general manager R.C. Buford said Presti's "combination of intelligence and creativity and work ethic are unique." In Presti's tenure in San Antonio, the Spurs won three of their four championship titles.


In search of the next Westbrook | Scott Howard-Cooper | May 28, 2009... Westbrook was at least a supreme athlete. He went No. 4 to the Thunder in what many at the time considered a big gamble, an inexperienced point guard for the position that requires instinct more than any other spot. It could have gone historically bad for Oklahoma City. Instead, Westbrook progressed, was the third-best rookie in a poll of coaches and immediately emerged as part of the foundation of a blossoming future there. General manager Sam Presti's gutsy pick turned into a great pick and Westbrook thus becomes the tease of what could be with those draft prospects who follow in attempting the same difficult transition.


Buzz from the pre-draft combine

ESPN Insider | Chad Ford | May 28, 2009... "After spending hundreds of hours and millions of dollars on scouting, what am I going to learn watching players do three hours of layup drills at half speed?" one GM said. "I think the league is going to have to come to grips with the fact that the day of a relevant and valuable pre-draft camp is behind us."


Word on the Street: NBA Combine Edition

DraftExpress | Jonathan Givony | May 28, 2009... With no competitive action to be found, most of the teams we talked to at the official networking point of the Combine—the Westin Hotel—don’t appear to be all that enthusiastic about what they’ve learned here so far. Many are already calling for changes to be made next year. The NBA's competition committee held a meeting last night, and David Stern did not look all that enthused as we watched him exit the building.


NBA teams take to Chicago for combine | Jonathan Givony | May 28, 2009... A new twist to the pre-draft camp, now renamed the NBA combine, is 13-plus hours of interview sessions designed to help teams collect as much data as they can on the player's off-court personality. Each team submitted a list of 18 players they'd like to talk with, ranked by preference, and are then granted 30-minute blocks. Some teams opted to bring their head coaches, some their entire front office, and others just a psychologist who administered a personality assessment. Not all the agents have been all that receptive to the idea, though.


To Blake Griffin, No. 1 pick is no given

USA Today | Andrew Seligman | May 28, 2009... In fact, the All-American forward from Oklahoma still wasn't quite ready to sign a mortgage in Los Angeles or declare himself the NBA's No. 1 pick. He'll wait for commissioner David Stern to make that announcement on June 25, even if the Clippers indicated it's really not necessary. "I'm planning it as if I don't know right now, which I don't," said Griffin, who was in Chicago on Thursday for the NBA draft combine. "I'm not going to guarantee anything. I'm going through it just like everybody else is."


As the Nuggets’ Birdman Soars, So Does His Popularity

The New York Times | John Branch | May 28, 2009... The first tattoos came a decade ago, after he returned from a stint in China. A symbol on the inside of one forearm means "good," he said. The symbol on the inside of the other means "bad." "It’s not good arm, bad arm," he explained. "I’m stuck in the middle of the good and the bad. Everybody’s stuck in the middle."


First female NBA ref leaving for college hoops | AP | May 28, 2009...  Palmer became the first woman to officiate a major U.S. professional sport when she made her NBA debut on Oct. 31, 1997. She has spent the last 12 seasons in the NBA, and officiated four playoff games and more than 700 regular season games. She also worked in the CBA and WNBA.


Wedding Pics! Who is it?

Global Grind | Brosefolophogus | May 22, 2009... Awwww, look at the two love birds, don’t they look so lovely. Here are the details of the two love birds dreamy wedding, as the two tied the knot at the LA mansion of super baller Ed Weinberger last week. And with legends like Kyla Pratt, Gary Payton, Tisha Campbell (Big Head Gina), her husband Duane Martin, Jerry West and his fam, ESPN Analyst Steve Lavin…and some of Earl’s old teammates Boom Dizzle, Chris Wilcox, Damien Wilkens and Nick Collison all there, you know it was cracking.


Report: OKC Leaning Toward Harden

Daily Oklahoman | Darnell Mayberry | May 29, 2009... While Harden seems to be a great fit on the Thunder alongside Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, don’t read too much into the report. For starters, it’s May 29, nearly a full month before the draft. Secondly, the Thunder’s brass is impressed with the skills of Rubio and likely wouldn’t pass up on him because of Westbrook. With Westbrook in the fold, things are a little more complicated if you add Rubio to the mix. But the Thunder is looking to add talented players, not necessarily players that fit best based on need. And finally, we all know Thunder general manager Sam Presti is as meticulous as they come. He hasn’t even had a chance to get much one-on-one time with the top prospects to evaluate them so it’s unlikely he’s "leaning" either way at this point.


When the Young Seem Old: Catching Up With Sam Young

48 Minutes of Hell | May 28, 2009... The reporter followed up by suggesting that he might be a better pro than he was a college player. Young agreed. "I’m a one-on-one player," citing the increased spacing and less frequent usage of zone defense as aspects of the NBA game that would compliment his style. This comment struck me as odd; I primarily think of Young as a catch-and-shoot player who, although he can finish at the rim, struggles to create a shot for himself at other spots on the floor.

NBA draft combine: Day 1

ESPN | Chad Ford | May 29, 2009... Four players really seemed to catch the attention of the GMs I spoke with after the event, with UCLA's Jrue Holiday garnering the most attention. He was the biggest point guard of the top group and seemed to tower over several of the smaller guys on the floor. During one 3-on-2 full-court drill, Holiday looked like a power forward running on the wing. And while his size was impressive, so was his game. He was hitting his jump shot, finishing with both hands and showing versatility and an excellent handle.


2009 NBA Draft Combine: Day One | Aran Smith | May 28, 2009... Day one of the NBA Draft Combine from Tim Grover's Attack Athletics gym in Chicago, IL was a chance to get to see a majority of the players who will be drafted in a controlled environment. The new combine format was successful in getting most of the top talent in front of the NBA GMs and scouts.  Unfortunately it was at the expense of seeing players in a game setting. The biggest positive of this format is that it gives GMs and scouts a chance to analyze player's shooting forms and their demeanors. Player's passing, ball handling, defense, and rebounding were not on display.


Clippers planning to keep No. 1 pick?

ESPN Insider | Chad Ford | May 29, 2009... The hottest rumor at the camp Thursday had the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in hot and heavy talks about a swap of the No. 1 pick for the No. 3 pick. I heard a number of variations, including Oklahoma City sending Jeff Green to Los Angeles and another in which the Thunder take back one of the Clippers' bad contracts, particularly those of Zach Randolph or Chris Kaman.


NBA draft measurables

ESPN Insider | Chad Ford | May 29, 2009... A lot of people questioned the height of Oklahoma's Blake Griffin during the season. At the draft combine, Griffin's measurements were a mixed bag. He checked in at 6-foot-8½ inches in bare feet and measured a legit 6-10 in shoes. That part was fine. But his wingspan came in at just 6-11 and he ended with a standing reach of 8-9. That's just one inch longer than the reach registered by Tyreke Evans and an inch and a half shorter than DeJuan Blair's.




ESPN Draft Machine

ESPN... Self Explanatory

Interesting NBA Hairstyles Photo Gallery


Just In Case...

I'm going to add a few more older articles/links, just in case you missed them earlier. Sammy posted this first link early this week, but I'm afraid that it was overlooked (seriously people, read the fanshots). So, here it is again...


Thundering Toward The Playoffs

Hoopsworld | Mike Moreau | May 25, 2009... And that's exactly the point. If they invested this much into me and these players who are not a part of their organization, imagine how much they invest in their own players? Here's an example: The Thunder created a state-of-the-art practice facility in less than three months after arriving in Oklahoma City, and are currently creating a bigger and better state-of-the-art practice facility closer to their downtown arena.


In the Room With the Pingpong Balls

ESPN True Hoop | Henry Abbott | May 19, 2009...

The Compass: Sam Presti
Two seats to John Kehriotis' right, Oklahoma GM Sam Presti is rubbing a small antique compass. His team moved up one spot, from fourth, to third. He says the compass was a gift from his girlfriend. And it worked, as they moved north one spot.

Presti has a reputation for being guarded with the media. In a way, it seems ill-founded. We talked for twenty minutes about all kinds of stuff. I took notes the entire time. But then I read those notes and ... really ... he didn't say anything that would make headlines.

For instance, I asked about his team's approach to statistical analysis, and whether or not they were one of the teams that charted plays to create their own statistical database, like the Rockets. His response: "I really value information, whether it's subjective or objective. I always want to have as much of it as I can ... I don't think we'll all end up doing it the same way, and that's what makes the NBA what it is. For us, we like information. But not a lot of teams are going to keep up with [Houston GM Morey] Daryl and his crew. They are a really innovative group that has done a great job."

(For what it's worth, I have it on good authority the Thunder do retain a stat expert.)

I asked about his ho-hum reaction to learning he had moved up a spot. "That's just kind of me," he said. And then he talked about how it was kind of nice to be able to better hone in the player research that must be done between now and the draft.

He's more passionate on the topic of building a winner. We talked a lot about how the players on the Thunder only won 23 games, but they have a process and a system that the whole organization believes in, and through all the losing nobody pointed fingers at each other. He talked about having building blocks. He talked about how every player and even coach Scott Brooks had committed to improving over the summer. (What would that entail? "A lot of film work, visiting players, visiting other coaches and picking their brains, self analysis ...")

"We like the direction," he says. "We feel we have been able to accumulate players with the right mindset, and they're working with passion to get better. This is another opportunity to get one of those players."