Thunder GM Sam Presti: ‘Small market teams operate with significant disadvantages’

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Paul George requested and received a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the L.A. Clippers. The Thunder followed that by trading Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets.

The unprecedented star teardown stoked the flames of the ever-burning market-size debate.

How can small-market teams like Oklahoma City compete if stars won’t stay or become unaffordable?

Thunder general manager Presti in The Oklahoman:

Despite our city’s rapid rise and growth, Oklahoma City remains the second-smallest market in the NBA. While this brings many benefits, it also poses strategic challenges. Given the way the league’s system is designed, small market teams operate with significant disadvantages. There is no reason to pretend otherwise. This in no way means we cannot be extraordinarily successful — we, and several other small to mid-market teams, are our own best examples of the ability to overcome these realities. It simply means we must be thinking differently, optimistically, finding our advantages by other means.

This caused some snickering, because the Thunder could have stayed in a larger market – Seattle. Nobody forced the SuperSonics to relocate. It’s a funny aside, but it’s still just an aside. Presti didn’t move the franchise. To his main point:

OF COURSE small-market teams operate with significant disadvantages. It’s a wonder that statement is at all controversial. Nobody can make NBA players prefer Oklahoma City to Los Angeles. With free agency, players will gravitate toward certain places when given the option.

But Presti isn’t dwelling on that. He’s acknowledging the reality the Thunder face. They must build differently than teams in destination markets should. It’s an important realization.

Oklahoma City’s disadvantage does not mean elimination. Small-market teams are not hopeless.

The last five teams to win a championship:

  • Raptors
  • Warriors
  • Cavaliers
  • Spurs
  • Heat

How many of those are big-market teams?

Cleveland and San Antonio meet everyone’s definition of a small market. With the other three, it’s tricky.

Despite its actual size, Toronto has always been considered a small NBA market. Canada brings complications – for players and TV ratings.

The Warriors ranked near the bottom of Forbes franchise valuations for years and years while making the playoffs only once between 1995 and 2012. Nobody was calling Golden State a sleeping giant.

When the Heat formed, they faced questions about their viability in Miami. It was unclear whether the city would support and NBA team.

But now, the Warriors are universally feared as a big-market team. Miami is considered a premier market. Even the Raptors – who get the big-city perks of Toronto and the support of an entire country – have people coming around to the idea they have a significant market.


Because those teams won.

The Knicks and Lakers will always be big-market teams. The Pelicans and Thunder will always be small-market teams.

But there are plenty of teams that can get labeled either way.

Often, it depends how they’re performing on the floor. When they’re winning, they tend to get grouped with big-market teams. When they’re losing, they tend to get grouped with small-market teams.

People didn’t quite know how to sort the Clippers and Nets, who play second fiddle in their cities. When those teams struggled, they often get dumped into the NBA’s lower class. But now that both has emerged as the league’s freshest powers, the Clippers and Nets are absolutely treated as big-market teams.

The wide disparity between large-market and small-market teams becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when it’s based on the success they’ve already experienced.

So, Presti is correct in his diagnosis and prescription. The Thunder face a disadvantage and must account for it when building their team.

But nobody should give up on them. They just had one of the best-ever runs by a team that didn’t win a championship. With all the assets acquired for George and Westbrook, Oklahoma City could rebuild again.

Playing in a small market doesn’t doom a team. Likewise, playing in a large market doesn’t guarantee success.

It’s just one factor – of many – that influences the final outcome.

Watch Trae Young get ejected for launching ball at referee


Trae Young screwed up and he knew it.

“It’s just a play he can’t make,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said via the Associated Press after the game. “I told him that. He knows it.”

With the score tied at 84 in the third quarter, Young had a 3-pointer disallowed and an offensive foul called on him for tripping the Pacers’ Aaron Nesmith. A frustrated Young picked up a technical foul for something he said.

Then walking back to the bench, Young turned and launched the ball at the referee with two hands. It was an instant ejection.


“There wasn’t a single part of him that tried to rationalize what happened,” Snyder said.

Young can expect a fine for this. It also was his 15th technical of the season, one more and he will get an automatic one-game suspension.

The Hawks went on to win 143-130, improving Atlanta to .500 at 37-37 and keeping them solidly as the No. 8 seed in the East.

Report: ‘Strong optimism’ Anthony Edwards could return to Timberwolves Sunday

Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves
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What looked so bad when it happened may only cost Anthony Edwards three games.

Edwards rolled his ankle last week but could be back Sunday when the Timberwolves travel to Golden State, reports Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports.

Edwards is averaging 24.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this season, and he has stepped up to become the team’s primary shot-creator with Karl-Anthony Towns out for much of the season. The Timberwolves have been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions when Edwards is off the court this season.

Towns returned to action a couple of games ago, and with Edwards on Sunday it will be the first time since November the Timberwolves will have their entire core on the court — now with Mike Conley at the point. With the Timberwolves tied for the No.7 seed in an incredibly tight West (they are 1.5 games out of sixth but also one game out of missing the postseason entirely) it couldn’t come at a better time. It’s also not much time to develop of fit and chemistry the team will need in the play-in, and maybe the playoffs.

Nets announce Ben Simmons diagnosed with nerve impingement in back, out indefinitely

NBA: FEB 24 Nets at Bulls
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Ben Simmons — who has been in and out of the Nets’ lineup all season and often struggled when on the court — is out indefinitely due to a nerve impingement in his back, the team announced Friday.

A nerve impingement — sometimes called a pinched nerve — is when a bone or other tissue compresses a nerve. Simmons has a history of back issues going back to his time in Philadelphia, and he had a microdiscectomy about a year ago, after he was traded to Brooklyn.

With two weeks and nine games left in the season, logic would suggest Simmons is done for the season. Coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday that Simmons has done some individual workouts but nothing with teammates, however, he would not say Simmons is shut down for the season or would not participate in the postseason with Brooklyn.

Simmons had not played since the All-Star break when he got PRP injections to help deal with ongoing knee soreness. When he has played this season offense has been a struggle, he has been hesitant to shoot outside a few feet from the basket and is averaging 6.9 points a game. Vaughn used him mainly as a backup center.

Simmons has two fully guaranteed years and $78 million remaining on his contract after this season. While Nets fans may want Simmons traded, his injury history and that contract will make it very difficult to do so this summer (Brooklyn would have to add so many sweeteners it wouldn’t be worth it).

The Nets have slid to the No.7 seed in the West — part of the play-in — and have a critical game with the Heat on Saturday night.

Frustration rising within Mavericks, ‘We got to fight hard, play harder’


If the postseason started today, the Dallas Mavericks would miss out — not just the playoffs but also the play-in.

The Mavericks fell to the No.11 seed in the West (tied with the Thunder for 10th) after an ugly loss Friday night to a tanking Hornets team playing without LaMelo Ball and on the second night of a back-to-back. Dallas is 3-7 with both Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić playing, and with this latest loss fans booed the Mavericks. What was Jason Kidd’s reaction? Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We probably should have been booed in the first quarter,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said…. “The interest level [from players] wasn’t high,” Kidd said. “It was just disappointing.”

That was a little different than Kyrie Irving’s reaction to the boos.

Then there is franchise cornerstone Luka Dončić, who sounded worn down, by the season and the losing in Dallas.

“We got to fight hard, play harder. That’s about it. We got to show we care and it starts with me first. I’ve just got to lead this team, being better, playing harder. It’s on me….

“I think you can see it with me on the court. Sometimes I don’t feel it’s me. I’m just being out there. I used to have really fun, smiling on court, but it’s just been so frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball.”

Dončić would not elaborate on what, outside basketball, has frustrated him.

Look at seeds 5-10 in the West and you see teams that have struggled but have the elite talent and experience to be a postseason threat: The Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker, plus Kevin Durant is expected back next week), the Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry and the four-time champions), the Los Angeles Lakers (Anthony Davis and maybe before the season ends LeBron James).

Should the Mavericks be in that class? On paper yes, they have clutch playoff performers of the past in Dončić and Irving, but an energy-less loss to Charlotte showed a team lacking the chemistry and fire right now that teams like the Lakers (beating the Thunder) and Warriors (beating the 76ers) showed on the same night.

The Mavericks feel like less of a playoff threat, especially with their defensive concerns. They don’t have long to turn things around — and get into the postseason.