Sam Presti: Chet Holmgren’s ‘mindset is as unique as his game’

Sam Presti: Chet Holmgren’s ‘mindset is as unique as his game’

What you need to know from Sam Presti’s preseason press conference.

Brett Dawson

By Brett Dawson

| Sep 27, 2023, 2:25pm CDT

Brett Dawson

By Brett Dawson

Sep 27, 2023, 2:25pm CDT

OKLAHOMA CITY — Here are some key pieces of news from Thunder general manager Sam Presti’s preseason press conference Wednesday.

On acclimating Holmgren:  Yes, the Thunder will have to accommodate the presence of rookie Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft who missed all of last season with a foot injury. 

No, that process isn’t just beginning. 

Holmgren sat out games all of last season but wasn’t absent as the Thunder won 40 games — up from 24 the season prior — and reached the NBA Play-In Tournament. 

That experience should help Holmgren acclimate. More than that, though, Presti pointed to head coach Mark Daigneault’s system, which he said allows the Thunder to “absorb a lot of different talents” and adjust. 

“It’s really our first season with Chet more than it’s Chet’s first season,” Presti said. “And so our ability to absorb him in a way that allows him to play efficiently, while everybody else can be a part of that as well, is one of the strengths of the way that we play stylistically.”

Holmgren has “hit all the marks” in his return to play, Presti said, and the Thunder won’t open the season with a set restriction on his minutes. Instead, Presti said, the team will be very observant and will have to improvise on Holmgren’s playing time. 

“Obviously we’ll be careful,” Presti said. “But one thing about him is, he’s gonna go hard when he’s playing. He’s a competitor. His mindset is as unique as his game.”

On a new arena: In December, Oklahoma City residents will vote on a proposed financing plan for a new arena that would lock the Thunder into a lease for 25 years if it opens. 

That’s the result of a city council vote Tuesday that sent the plan — which would finance the arena primarily with a 1-cent sales tax in Oklahoma City — to a Dec. 12 election. 

Presti called arena financing “a political issue” and “outside of my circle of competence.” 

“I do really applaud Mayor (David) Holt’s vision because I think his vision is not necessarily a vision of the Thunder; it’s a vision for Oklahoma City,” Presti said. “And I think the way he’s expressed that in a very proactive way, he’s done a good job of articulating that. But I’m also a huge believer that everyone’s voice matters and the people who vote on this, and that’s the way it should be and there should be discourse because I think that’s healthy.” 

Presti conceded that potential new revenues from an arena — along with any that come from the NBA’s new in-season tournament and upcoming TV contract — could help pay for what could be an expensive team in the future, should its best young players need max contracts down the road. 

“Hopefully we have players that warrant that type of commitment,” Presti said. “I don’t want to I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves with that.”

Should it happen, those multiple revenue sources could be key. 

“For a team like us with how we’re positioned, those things are very, very, very positive for our ability to retain our best players,” he said.

On Victor Oladipo: Presti made it clear that he thinks injured veteran guard Victor Oladipo — whom the Thunder acquired in an offseason trade with Miami — will play in the NBA this season. 

He made it similarly clear that it won’t be with the Thunder, a team stocked with young backcourt players. 

Oladipo, who tore his left patellar tendon in last season’s playoffs and still is recovering, won’t report to camp with the Thunder next week Presti said, meaning the team will “have to make a decision on that contract.” 

Assuming no trade presents itself involving Oladipo, the Thunder could waive him or reach a buyout agreement. Oladipo, who played for the Thunder in 2016-17 before he was included in a trade for Paul George, and the organization is “huge fans” of his, Presti said. 

“He’ll be back this season at some point, and I’m sure he’ll be playing with a really good team at some point,” Presti said. “But just with our roster situation, we just can’t prioritize that right now.”

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Brett Dawson, the Thunder beat writer at Sellout Crowd, has covered basketball for more than 20 seasons at the pro and college levels. He previously worked the Thunder beat at The Oklahoman and The Athletic and also has covered the New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers. He’s covered college programs at Louisville, Illinois and Kentucky, his alma mater. He taught sports journalism for a year at the prestigious Missouri School of Journalism. You can reach him at [email protected] or find him sipping a stout or an IPA at one of Oklahoma City’s better breweries.

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