Despite an admittedly disappointing season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, general manager Sam Presti said Wednesday that head coach Billy Donovan will be back next season, emphasizing the importance of continuity within the organization.
"We're disappointed, and we should be," Presti said. "We expected more out of the team."
"I think the best thing for [Donovan], and I think the biggest opportunity for him, is in the continuity," Presti said. "Additionally, just continuity in general, with the type of team we have assembled and the way it was assembled, generally, continuity is his best friend going forward."
The Utah Jazz eliminated the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, and now another interesting summer awaits. George is an unrestricted free agent and Anthony, with a $28 million option for next season, voiced a desire for a different role.
"I just want to be clear about one thing with respect to Carmelo: I don't want his comments at the end of the season to in any way be reshaped by anybody to insinuate that he wasn't a total pro during the season," Presti said. "I don't want that to be insinuated that he didn't put two feet into fulfilling the role that was necessary for him to take on this team."
After waiving his no-trade clause in September to join the Thunder, Anthony changed positions on a full-time basis to become a stretch power forward. While he set a new career mark for most 3-pointers made in a season, he had career lows in points per game, field goal attempts per game and shooting percentage.
Anthony said last week he would not accept a bench role, and feels he has a lot more to offer than what his role allowed this season.
"I think every player is entitled to take a step back after the season, reflect on the year they had, and in his case have to make a determination about whether or not this is a role that he wants to continue to be functioning in," Presti said of Anthony. "I actually think he's being quite honest with us in that respect, and I respect it very much. I think it's incumbent on us as an organization to show the same respect and be honest and transparent, straight with him about what that might look like going forward."
George said at the conclusion of the season he would "love" to stay with the Thunder, but would take time and evaluate his options before making a decision. The Thunder traded for George after he informed the Indiana Pacers last summer that he would not be re-signing with them in free agency. He was linked to the Los Angeles Lakers at the time, and the Thunder made the deal knowing it could potentially be a one-year rental, while also being a one-year free agency recruitment.
"I feel like he's been here longer than one year," Presti said. "I said this to him before he left. The reason why is because I just feel like he's such a tremendous fit for our organization, our community. The way he has embraced the opportunity in Oklahoma City, built strong relationships both with his teammates, with ownership, with staff, I just think he's really, really been exceptional in that respect.
"From the day that he arrived, we really made a specific and intentional effort to build a relationship with Paul and his representation built on three things: collaboration, transparency and trust," Presti said. "Those tenets were followed throughout the year and continued to be. I felt strongly about the relationship. I feel great about the communication and the honesty, about the way we started the relationship."
"We want players that are from Oklahoma to go on and have success other places," Presti said. "We're not, like, 5-year-olds, rooting against people. This is a business. You want people to know that you generally have a good feel for players so that when they come to make deals with you, they feel like they're going to get somebody that is going to perform well."
The Thunder finished the season 48-34, fourth in the Western Conference, and were one of four teams to place in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. However, it was a turbulent year for a team with high expectations after adding George and Anthony. Stunning inconsistency -- along with an injury to starter Andre Roberson -- plagued the Thunder.
"Once we got into January, I really felt like we were playing at an elite level on both sides of the ball, playing with rhythm," Presti said. "I thought we were at a really, really high level and balanced. Clearly the reality of the situation is once we took the injury to Roberson, it was really disrupting to us. It disrupted the progress we made.
"With all that being said, the real key to the season, in the regular season, in my opinion, was just the amount of time it took us to respond and adjust to the loss of him. Therein lies the fact that we have to own that. We didn't do a good enough job with that. I didn't think from that point on we found ourselves."