The NBA is allowing players to return to their team’s facilities on May 8.
However, what Thunder general manager Sam Presti made clear during a Thursday afternoon video conference was that everything that might be read into that allowance might fit into a thimble.
“With respect to the May 8 date, what I can say is that the league has stated it’s a target date and we’re still a week or two away from that … I wouldn’t say that we’re committed to doing that. We have to work thought that a little bit.”
Thus, any thought the “at least three or four weeks” timetable Oklahoma City point guard Chris Paul intimated during an April 22 teleconference that it would take players to ready themselves to resume playing might begin that day — May 8 — should be disregarded.
“We still have some time before we would even be able to take that option,” Presti said, “and we’re going to be thorough in how we look at it.”
Presti aside, a strong indication the 2019-20 season will reach a conclusion if it possibly can was delivered, via Twitter, on Thursday by the NBA’s biggest star, LeBron James.
“Saw some reports about execs and agents wanting to cancel season??? That’s absolutely not true,” James tweeted. “Nobody I know saying anything like that. As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season. I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything.”
Nonetheless, more than once on Thursday, Presti made it clear the Thunder don’t know “when we’re coming back and if we’re coming back.”
Though Presti couldn’t commit to OKC’s facilities opening on May 8, he insisted the Thunder had no intention of bucking the league’s direction. He insisted the opposite would is true.
“I just think it’s incumbent on the teams to really follow the lead of the league leadership in this situation because there’s not going to be a perfect solution,” he said. “In the event that we are in a position to play again, obviously the health and wellness of staff, players, fans, everybody involved, that’s a decision that needs to be made way above anyone at a team level.”
Thunder players conduct a weekly video call on Zoom to remain in touch with each other. In an effort to not impede, Presti makes short appearances on those calls: “It’s actually been one of the fun things for me during this … to see just that banter back and forth between the guys,” he said.
Time will tell if the allowed May 8 opening of team facilities around the league becomes universal and if a drumbeat toward resumption of the season might begin once players return to them.
From where Presti sits, trying to come up with answers before that time passes isn’t very productive. All the Thunder can do is be prepared to react when the answers arrive.
“That’s the question. It’s not what’s going to happen, it’s knowing that it will be imperfect no matter when it is,” he said. “Whether it’s this season or next season, you’re going to have to learn to adapt to the imperfections that are coming and, to me, that’s what makes a professional.”
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Billy coming back?
Thunder coach Billy Donovan is in the final year of his contract and Thursday, OKC general manager Sam Presti was asked about Donovan's future with the team. Presti at least sounded as though he'd very much like Donovan to return for the 2020-21 season.
"I think he's done an excellent job all five years and our hope is that once we get some clarity on whether this is the end of the season or we're playing more or what have you, we'll sit down and have those conversations that are going to stay private," Presti said. "But I would say that I'm looking forward to it, I think he's done a great job and I'm hopeful that those [conversations] are productive when there's an appropriate time to do it."