Billy Donovan to Return as Thunder HC, According to GM Sam Presti

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2018

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts to his team in the second half during Game 6 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Salt Lake City. The Jazz won 96-91. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti confirmed on Wednesday head coach Billy Donovan will return for the 2018-19 season, according to Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman

That doesn't mean Presti is pleased with how the 2017-18 season played out, as the Thunder were eliminated by the Utah Jazz in six games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs:

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

Thunder GM Sam Presti with media. "48 wins, one of 3 or 4 teams in top 10 in offense and defense, 7th best net rating in the league, 9th best record and we're disappointed and we should be. We expected more out of the team." https://t.co/mpPz3FGKz8

Presti believes the future is bright, however.

"The opportunity to potentially have [Russell] Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams, all three of those guys in their prime years, is extremely exciting for us," he said, per Erik Horne of the Oklahoman

Of course, George can be a free agent this summer if he opts out of the final year of his deal, making his future in Oklahoma City uncertain. Noticeably absent from those comments was Carmelo Anthony, who was clearly frustrated during his exit interviews on Saturday.

"I think the player that they wanted me to be and needed me to be was for the sake of this season," Anthony told reporters, per AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today. "Everything was just thrown together and it wasn't anything that was planned out. Wasn't no strategy to me being here, me being a part of the actual system and what type of player and things like that."

Anthony also made it clear he had no desire to ever take on a bench role with the team.

"I'm not sacrificing no bench role," he said. "That's out the question. ... I think everybody knows that I've sacrificed kind of damn near everything—family, moving here by myself. Sacrificed my game for the sake of the team, and was willing to sacrifice any and everything in order for this situation to work out.

"It's something I really have to think about if I really want to be this type of player and finish out my career as this type of player knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball."

Presti responded to those comments on Wednesday.

Erik Horne @ErikHorneOK

Presti said he respects Melo’s honesty (exit interviews), said they’ll sit down face-to-face and figure out what’s important to both parties. Called Melo a “total pro” during the season.

"I'm gonna reiterate one thing because it's important: His comments at the end of the year are not reflective of his approach this year," Presti said of Anthony, per Horne. "He put both feet into that. He has to decide if he wants to do another year of trying to be a stretch player."

"He's being candid and honest," he added. "We have the same responsibility. We have to be candid and honest with him."

So Donovan, 52, may be back in 2018, but it's unclear what type of team he'll be coaching. Westbrook and Adams are mainstays, but George could be departing in free agency and Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported that the Thunder would "very much like to find a way to rid themselves of Anthony."

Donovan has made things work to this point, going 150-96 in his three seasons with the Thunder while reaching the postseason in each campaign. That included a trip to the Western Conference Finals in Kevin Durant's final season with the team, though the Thunder haven't been able to escape the first round since his departure to the Golden State Warriors

But there's no doubt that the Thunder underachieved this past season. That was likely due mostly to Westbrook, George and Anthony never fully jelling, while the season-ending injury to defensive stalwart Andre Roberson didn't help. 

If George returns, Donovan will have another season to build a system around the relationship and skill sets of George and Westbrook, though Anthony's questionable fit looms. It's unlikely that Anthony will opt out of his $27.9 million salary for the 2018-19 season, a figure that will also make him difficult to trade. 

Those moves are in the hands of Presti. For now, Donovan waits, job security in hand but roster security in flux.