Sam Presti Told Thunder Executives They’d Have To Be Like MacGyver To Lure Free Agents To Oklahoma

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Sam Presti acquired Paul George this summer in an effort to launch a yearlong recruiting pitch to sign him long-term. But the Oklahoma City Thunder general manager knows he and the team will have to get creative to compete with the likes of the Golden State Warriors and — suddenly — the Houston Rockets.

Lee Jenkins’ Sports Illustrated piece about George and the Thunder includes a funny anecdote about how Presti and company got to work right after the team was eliminated from the postseason.

The Thunder initially called the Pacers about George at the trading deadline in February, as did virtually every other team, and planned to reach out again after the season. When Oklahoma City was eliminated by Houston in the first round of the playoffs, Presti handed all his top lieutenants notecards with a picture of Richard Dean Anderson, the actor best known as MacGyver.

You know MacGyver, the guy who improbably makes stuff out of other stuff.

Apparently everyone knew exactly what he meant: it’s going to take some ingenuity to get the Thunder to the next level.

The implication was obvious, at least to elders in the building. “We’ll have to use some tools we don’t have yet or some tools we haven’t had,” says director of basketball operations Paul Rivers, “and look from a perspective we haven’t had to look from before.” The Thunder did not possess a trove of draft picks, like the Celtics, but they did employ another kind of asset. When Durant bolted they made a conscious decision to invest in young controllable players, partly because they could be developed, but also because they could be traded far more easily than veterans.

It doesn’t take all that much ingenuity to invest in Russell Westbrook, but Presti is definitely on the right track in finding new ways to make the Thunder competitive. Getting George was a coup in a crowded trade market. Finding a way to keep him, though, would be a true achievement.