The first game of the 2015-16 NBA season is just over a month away and all I can say is that it is about time. Based upon the depth of the furrows in his forehead at his recent press conference, I think Thunder GM Sam Presti concurs.
Years naturally do that to a man's face, but this has not been a typical year. October 13th will mark the anniversary of the Kevin Durant Jones fracture announcement. For all intents and purposes, any championship hopes for the season ended right then and there – it will always be remembered for Durant's foot injury.
How that individual event specifically affected the rest of the year in terms of wins and losses, the big trade in February, and the eventual dismissal of Scott Brooks is up for debate, but it was perfectly clear Wednesday that Presti is anxious for this organization to begin a new chapter.
Whether it was by design or the events of the last 12 months, this interview felt different. No Q-and-A with Presti would be complete without a discussion about maintaining long-term success and Wednesday's interview had its fair share of that, but Presti made it a special point to remind everyone that the present can get lost if we focus too much on the past or the future:
"If you spend your time thinking about what could happen or what did happen, you're gonna miss what's happening."
Presti has never been one to dwell on the past, but has generally talked about the events or decisions of the time as a stepping stone toward tomorrow. However, from comments in this interview, it would seem that tomorrow may have finally arrived. For example, when asked the inevitable question about Kevin Durant's pending free agency, Presti shifted the focus back to the here and now:
"We're not going to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that that's not going to be in the air, but I think again we'd be pretty inconsistent. We adopted an approach in 2008, it has served us well because I think it has kept our focus on the things we can control. I think if we divert from that now I don't think we're being incredibly authentic because the number one goal is to have a great season."
"Now" was the theme of the interview. Being excited about the pieces we have "now", the players we have "now" and the coaching staff we have "now". I lost count of the number of times Presti said the word "now" but I got the message.
"It's exciting to see our players in this group in a new system and how they are affected, how that changes, what limitations are accounted for, what new limitations we might find. So that's an important part of this process for Billy [Donovan] and the players as they go through this.
"I'm excited to see how everybody assimilates and incorporates, and how we come together as a team because as I said, I'll be disappointed if our competitive maturity of understanding the little things that add up. If we're not really embracing and good at those by the end of the season, because I think that's where good teams go to great teams. I think that's where you build incredible resilience and I think that's how you make it through this really, really long, arduous march of a season and I think that will be a great test for us and I think we'll do great with that. "
Point A, "our players in a new system", point B, "arduous march of a season". Missing from his final statement was the word future and the term, moving forward, benchmarks of virtually every Sam Presti interview I have ever listened to. Obviously those are areas that the Thunder organization will always focus on as long as Presti is running the show, but "the process" Presti mentions in this particular instance is much narrower than in years past. Clearly, the Thunder GM has very high expectations for the upcoming season.
There is a latin term for this sentiment called 'carpe diem,' or seize the day:
Ironically, that sentiment is the basis for those that question Presti's decision to trade James Harden three years ago.
Why 'carpe diem' now when Presti decided to 'exspecta cras,' or wait for tomorrow, in October of 2012? My guess is the financial position of the owners at the time of the trade was the primary culprit. I base that conclusion upon what has transpired since George Kaiser's billions joined the Thunder ownership group, The Professional Basketball Club, LLC, last April. Specifically, hiring a new coach for more money and the no-brainer response to match the max contract offer for Enes Kanter.
Presti may have skated around the first question of the year about Kevin Durant's upcoming free agency, but it's clear that he recognizes that it's no longer 2012 and that Old Time is still a-flying and those rosebuds smiling today, tomorrow will be dying. The clock is ticking. Carpe diem Thunder... carpe diem!