Sam Presti ... GENIUS!!
How you can consistently proclaim an NBA general manager a "genius" in 140 characters? It's done every day in the blogosphere, specifically bloggers who have twitter accounts. Let's explore how a soundbite world leads to hyperbole and doing a disservice to good general managers.
And yes, a certain GM in Oklahoma will come up.
Twitter's penchant of overstatement and gross hyperbole didn't actually bother me at all until I was following along the 2012 NBA Draft earlier in June. It is then that I snapped and realized that this almost zealous need to be both snarky and full of praise in the same small statement was a detriment to many, many things. This time, NBA General managers. Praise isn't the word ... utter and complete hyperbolic screaming praise.
You see, if there is one GM in the NBA that get's the most run on twitter it would unequivocally be Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is clear every time his name comes up in a Twitter chat with a fellow blogger or mainstream reporter (to a far lesser extent). There's a need to proclaim everything that Presti does as some sort of stroke up unattainable genius. For example, shortly after the first round of the draft was completed (after the Thunder picked Perry Jones III from Baylor) there popped up a tweet, "Genius move by Presti selecting Jones there"...
I furrowed my brow and chuckled. You've got to be kidding right? Jones fits very neatly into the "best player available" slot.
Yet, this initial tweet was followed by an avalanche of tweets from respected bloggers and columnists who were falling over themselves to declare Presti's pick of Jones to be the "steal" of the draft and a "brilliant" move. Apoplectic, I stared at the computer with my mouth open. I thought, are the people who are genuflecting over this pick serious? Perry Jones is a good player, but I would say that 9 times out of 10 a team in OKC's slot in the draft (28th overall) would have gone ahead and taken him. Heck, many people who comment on Denver Stiffs wanted the Nuggets to take Jones with the 20th pick. Best. Player. Available.
I have nothing against Presti. He's a damn good GM, but it's his fervent fanboys on twitter and in the blogosphere that make me shake my head. It's as if he can do no wrong. All moves are rationalized (the recent Serge Ibaka extension is a prime example of this) and dissected like the battle plan for D-Day. I work in the art business primarily, and twitter reminds me of things I have experienced while going to art shows around the country. Let me explain...
My primary artist is a man named Mark Rohrig. Much like in basketball, when you are semi-famous in your chosen field you gain fans. When the art show/reception starts you introduce the patrons to the artists newest work and, while most are very appreciative and murmur praise, there's always that one guy who looks vaguely like Elvis Costello standing at the back (who comes to every show of this artist) who hoots and hollars and starts the slow clapping. Yelling praise and letting everyone know he has a painting or two of Mark's.
Yeah baby! Clap clap clap. Just when I think you can't do a better painting you come with THIS! WOW!. Everything you do is wonderful!
Meanwhile Mark is uncomfortable, I'm uncomfortable and the people who are there to appreciate art are looking at their plates of cheese or wine glasses hoping the guy would just stop. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Twitter. Twitter is the guy standing in back, dressed in the skinny tie and horn rimmed glasses, trying to shout his praise over everyone else in the building. Presti has a fanatical following that does a complete disservice to his actual accomplishments as a GM. Instead, every move is proclaimed a genius and his bad moves are glossed over (picking Cole Aldrich ... anything involving Kendrick Perkins post-2011) or not even discussed and his good moves are hyper-amplified. It's not fair to Presti.
As I said before, Presti is a damn good GM. While his picks after Kevin Durant have been made easier because he is on the roster, Presti has also maneuvered nicely to keep his team together. A team that was just in the NBA Finals. Masai Ujiri has proven himself to be a good GM, but I also believe people overpraise Masai. In a weird way there are people who think that the Nuggets general manager is somehow pulling the wool over people's eyes and getting them to take slug players in exchange for great ones. No, that's not what's happening here. It takes two to tango, and the other team must value your player as much as you want to acquire their guys. However, Masai has done a very fine job getting this Nuggets roster re-shaped after Carmelo Anthony and he is proving to be a damn good GM, post-Melo.
Once you start using too much hyperbole in describing general managers, when they have human moments and fail fans are crushed like they were 16 years-old again and got rejected for the first time. You can praise what an executive does without succumbing to sycophantic behavior. It just isn't fair to everyone involved. We all hope that the Nuggets are on their way to being an elite team. I think they are getting there. I'm kind of glad that Masai doesn't have the cult-like following that Presti does, in all seriousness, because he's not cliche. In an odd way he has integrity because he doesn't have Twitter barnacles attached to his underside.
Drop the hype, just play the damn game.
The above linked article is from columnist Jenni Carlson of the Daily Oklahoman. I felt dirty using her article as a reference point, but I wanted to remind Nuggets fans why she is so awful right here.