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Sounds of Thunder: Sam Presti Quietly Rages Against the Dying of the Light

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Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

When the late Dylan Thomas wrote the poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," it is understood that he was writing about his dying father, but like all great pieces of literature throughout history, it has transcended the bonds of a grieving son to a wider spectrum of the human condition. Thomas' brilliant use of analogy in the poem allows us that license to apply the poem's meaning in life as well as death, and teaches his readers to not quit but rather persevere in the face of adversity. Which is a lesson Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti has applied since a very dark day in July when Kevin Durant opted to leave the Thunder.

At a time when the basketball world was telling Presti to cash in his chips, trade his remaining superstar Russell Westbrook, and start from scratch, Presti chose to stay in the arena and fight. He latched on to Westbrook's simple what's next? inquiry after Durant's decision and held on tight, because the answer for Russell was obvious to Presti, resulting in the extension of Presti’s remaining All-Star's contract.

To make that happen, cap space had to be cleared and Presti was forced to withdraw the Thunder's qualifying offer for Dion Waiters. Once Waiters signed with the Miami Heat, Presti was able to finalize the terms of Westbrook's extension and the pair held a press conference on August 4th that was as much a coronation as it was an announcement.

Westbrook's signing was so big for the franchise and the Thunder fan base that Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett officially declared the day "Russell Westbrook Day" and even weighed into the festivities with his own what's next question to Presti when Cornett asked via text, "Is the roster set for opening day or are there more moves to come?"

Presti's response:

Let me say two things about that actually. The first is, I've worked here for nine years now. This will be my ninth season. I think stuff like what you just expressed to me from the mayor, decision to the things they did today, I'm driving here, there's businesses and different establishments and have, Why not, things on their window. That's what makes playing here totally different, totally unique.

I would say today is one of the more remarkable days I've had since I've done this job just because of the way people have reacted to what Russell has chosen to do. He didn't have to do this. This is something he chose to do.

It's days like today that make you realize how fortunate you are to work or play in a place that appreciates the team and the players on a level. And you get questions from the mayor, as well, which makes working here great to me.

What I say is we're always looking to try to improve the team. That's been the case. The people that I work with, they're 365 days a year trying to find a way to make us an inch better. That has never changed, will never change.

I think we'll take a hard look at what the team looks like during the season. To Russ' point, I'm really excited about the year because I think we're going to continue to learn about our team. I have the utmost confidence in Russell's leadership ability, but he's gotten better every single season, and I think we're going to see continued growth and dimensions to his game. I think there's even more room for him to grow. You're going to see even a better player over time.

I've got equally as much confidence in Billy and the coaching staff to look for ways to evolve the way we prepare and approach the game. They've been as hard at work as anybody.

From a roster standpoint, my conversations with Russell, one thing I think you look at the team, there's a certain element of toughness. I think there's a certain edge to the team. We're probably not going to do it like everybody else. We never have. I think that's one of the reasons why we've really owned our own success, is because we haven't necessarily modeled ourselves after anybody or followed a certain playbook because that's the way everybody else has done it.

One of the things I see with the team being led by Russell is there's a competitiveness and I would say, like, a ferocity and physicality to us. We'll continue to look for ways to keep adding to the talent level.

Sam Presti, August 4, 2016

That was probably more than the simple ‘yes, no, or maybe' response Cornett was looking for, but such is the nature of Sam Presti, a man that understands that life is rarely that easy, and in order to succeed, one must constantly push ahead even when you've been pushed back.

After securing Westbrook's new deal, Presti expedited the long anticipated migration of Alex Abrines from the Euroleague's FS Barcelona to next season's squad and just closed a deal with Denver to add 6'11" Joffrey Lauvergne to an already talented stable of Thunder bigs.

The addition of Lauvergne places the Thunder over their limit of guaranteed contracts, leaving no doubt that Presti is not finished re-stacking the deck because he must make another move in order to trim his roster to fifteen.

What that may entail is still in question, but one thing is clear, in the true spirit of Dylan Thomas' famous poem, when Durant walked out, Presti refused to let his dream of continued excellence die. The Thunder came too close a year ago to just let it go gently into the night...

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Like Sam Presti, rage against the dying of the light.