‘What we have is an appearance’: Sam Presti reflects on Thunder’s 2024 playoff run

During the Oklahoma City Thunder’s recent rebuild, one of the more quotable phrases Sam Presti coined was related to their next playoff berth. In 2021, he said he wanted OKC to make a statement the next time it had games beyond the regular season.

“When we do get back to the postseason,” Presti said. “We want it to be an arrival, not an appearance.”

It appears the Thunder did just that this last year. After falling a win shy of the playoffs last season, OKC collected the first seed this season.

It went on to sweep its Round 1 matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans before falling to the Dallas Mavericks in six games in Round 2.

In his exit interview, Presti surprisingly stated he didn’t think the Thunder’s impressive playoff showing was an arrival. He noted it was just an appearance and constant playoff trips would be when the arrival would occur.

“We talked about an arrival vs. an appearance and the difference between that,” Presti said. “I know this is not going to go over well for people, but what we have is an appearance. We have an appearance.

“We have shown up to the postseason. We’ll arrive if we can replicate that. If we can replicate that. Because there’s a lot of teams that have gotten to the playoffs for one year and then they, for whatever reason, may not be able to get back there.”

The Thunder are no strangers to this idea. From 2011 to 2020, OKC made the playoffs every season outside of an injury-plagued 2015 campaign. This was highlighted by four Western Conference Finals appearances in six years. OKC reached the NBA Finals in 2012.

If this iteration of the Thunder finds similar success, they’ve smashed open a championship window. Or as Presti put it, cracked the code of the NBA.

“So the way I would look at that is you can either pick the lock or you can crack the code,” Presti said. “Picking the lock, you’re stealing it. Cracking the code, you own it. We have to be able to own our success and be able to repeat it.”

The Thunder has an impressive run in their postseason debut. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showed out as the top option. It’s now about Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren catching up to the MVP runner-up following inconsistent playoff tenures.

The youthful Thunder have a long runway with this group. Most of the roster is in their early 20s. Mark Daigneault is fresh off a Coach of the Year season. OKC has $35 million in cap space and a plethora of draft picks at its disposal.

The Thunder can only gain from their playoff experience. They got their first taste of postseason basketball as a group. It’s now about building off that and becoming a recurring participant in the playoffs.

“I think we’ve got the first step in place, but we have to walk the line toward making it what we set out to do,” Presti said.

Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire