Thunder will report to new practice facility
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
Once the NBA lockout got started, the Oklahoma City Thunder's players were no longer allowed to work out in their practice facility.
Now, they may never practice in the place again.
When players are allowed to report to team facilities Thursday, the Thunder will enter a new $14 million practice site on the northeast side of town that was funded by the same penny sales tax increase that produced renovations to the team's downtown arena.
''We're in our new building. We are excited by that,'' general manager Sam Presti said Wednesday. ''It's a fantastic facility. We're very excited for our players to have their first experience with it.
''The thing about it that we're so excited about is that it's really driven to player development and the development of our guys. We think that's going to be critical for our organization and it's been a focus for us for a period of years now. We feel like the building has an opportunity to continue to help improve our players and it's a great place to work. We're very grateful that we have that in place now.''
The construction of the facility had been pushed back several times and it was initially supposed to be completed prior to last season. The lockout allowed some finishing touches to be completed before the players are allowed - like the rest of the league - to report Thursday.
''We'll be open and we anticipate having some people there. ... With the news being pretty short, it makes a situation like this pretty fluid,'' Presti said.
''I think we'll probably see a steady stream of guys over the next few days and so on, as the days take shape. Some of that's from just geographic nature and different things, but we'll be prepared for whatever lays ahead for us.''
The old practice facility will be converted into a community events center and also will host the team's youth basketball camps and practices for the Thunder Girls dance team.
Oklahoma City is in the unique position of having 13 players already under contract from last season's squad that reached the Western Conference finals, so there's no need to make a major move during a condensed free agent signing period.
Wednesday was also the first day that Presti could start talking with Russell Westbrook's representatives about a possible contract extension for the All-Star point guard.
''Part of my job is to ... have a little bit of a pulse on what's going on within the market, and today's no different. We're going to make a lot of phone calls to understand if there's ways for us to improve, if there's ways for us even just to take stock in what's going on,'' Presti said.
''This is a little bit of a unique situation, but everybody's in that. In relation to our players, obviously we can't talk directly to any of them and haven't been able to but today we were at least able to reach out to their representatives and we've done a pretty decent job at that.''
Presti said the Thunder's continuity could be a positive with some teams unsettled heading into an abbreviated training camp, but they still have to take advantage of it. He doesn't necessarily believe that the team's youth provides an advantage in the condensed season.
''It's a unique situation. I think everybody in the NBA would tell you that,'' Presti said. ''But with our organization, I don't think anyone should discount the fact that we've had quick turnarounds before. We've had short preparation time in our first year here in Oklahoma City, so we understand that. There's no excuse for us.
''Everybody's had the same circumstances and we'll roll our sleeves up and go to work.''
Presti said he couldn't comment on a report that the Thunder would have a West finals rematch with the Dallas Mavericks in their two preseason games, nor on whether Oklahoma City would be included in an expanded Christmas Day schedule when play resumes.
''I like Christmas. It's a great holiday and hopefully there will be some gifts that are there under the tree at some point,'' Presti said. ''But to be honest with you, for me and everybody that loves basketball as much as I do and this city does, I think just having the team back on the floor is quite a gift in and of itself.''