OKLAHOMA CITY — It is not entirely clear that Billy Donovan will return as Thunder coach. The only thing that became clear Monday was that OKC general manager Sam Presti is expecting him back.
The first question Presti got about Donovan at his end-of-season press conference, he offered the following.
“We anticipate Billy being back,” he said. “If anything were to change on that, we would let you know, and I know some of you guys have had questions about that. But for us, for me personally, I always think that it’s important to give the coach of the team time to reflect and decompress. These jobs are really, really hard.”
Presti was later asked for clarification. Is Donovan coming back?
“Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t expect anything to change … I haven’t had the chance to sit down with him,” he said. “I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him. If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation on things.”
It would seem nothing is 100 percent certain until Donovan and Presti engage in their meeting of the minds.
• Going deep on Russell: Presti did not take Russell Westbrook to specific task for anything that occurred during the season. He said he expects Westbrook to shoot better next season and continue to evolve as a player. He spent hundreds and hundreds of words on Westbrook, more than any other topic, on Monday, though none were pointed.
The following excerpt is a good example of the public tone Presti is taking where his point guard is concerned.
“He's not perfect. None of us are … But I'm not going to let 11 years or 10 and a half years of his contributions and performance be completely overshadowed by a couple pretty tough months, OK?” Presti said. “And, so we talk about those things, and as the leader of the team and the face of the franchise … we'll have those conversations, and there might be times that we might disagree with some of that stuff.
“He has a point of view … I respect that point of view. The one thing that I think everybody that works for the Thunder and plays for the Thunder has always had in mind is that we always have to put the organization first. There's no one person or individual that can ever afford not to do that.
“At the same time, we can't discount the things that Russell has done over the years and the things he's been able to achieve.”
• Next year for Patrick: Presti did not indicate that he thought Markieff Morris was likely to return next season. Perhaps surprisingly, he said he expected Patrick Patterson to return.
Patterson has time left on his contract, but being relegated to the bench to make room for Morris, could have had him asking for a trade or buyout.
About Patterson, Presti said the following:
“He was starting for a little bit and then, obviously, [Jerami Grant] took over that spot, but he’s been a 35 to 40 percent 3-point shooter,” he said. “If he’s back, which I’d expect him to be, maybe we need to ride that out a little bit longer and rely on him to shoot his career averages, which he has done even [last season].
• Paul’s elbow: In his first chance to talk about what the Thunder face as Paul George goes about repairing his right elbow, Presti said he still wasn’t clear on a timetable, but did speak to the process, saying the organization works with the player, the player’s agent and team physicians.
“And we almost always have a specialist or kind of outside doctor that we’re working with as well,” Presti said. “Everybody felt comfortable with him playing. He was at no risk of any type of future injury, but we all knew that when we get to the end of the season, he’d have to be looked at and evaluated. That hasn’t happened yet."