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Thunder plan to keep Donovan despite playoff struggles

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder plan to keep coach Billy Donovan for a fifth year.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Monday that he doesn’t expect to switch coaches, despite Oklahoma City’s third consecutive first-round playoff exit.

Presti does expect Russell Westbrook to change, though. The All-Star point guard averaged a triple-double for the third straight season, but his image came under scrutiny after he collected a league-high 16 technical fouls that led to a one-game suspension, trash talked with Portland point guard Damian Lillard before losing the playoff series and refused to answer some of the media’s questions.

“Would we prefer if he handled a few things differently? Sure,” Presti said. “We’ve talked about that. I also think it would probably be worthy and noteworthy to establish the fact that he made some adjustments to that particular approach, and I think that’s a sign of tremendous leadership and a sign that he is understanding that when he speaks, he is the reflection of so many different people. And I know how much he cares about the team because I’ve seen it for 10½ years.”

Presti would like the Thunder to handle some things differently overall. Oklahoma City has reached the playoffs each of Donovan’s four years with the team, but hasn’t won a playoff series since Kevin Durant left for Golden State in free agency after the 2015-16 season. Donovan has a 199-129 regular-season record, but he is 15-19 in the playoffs. Portland rolled past the Thunder 4-1 in their playoff series this season.

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Presti said he plans to discuss with Donovan why the team went through a 6-13 stretch from late February to the end of March after a promising first two-thirds of the season. Presti called the last part of the season “disappointing” after speculation the Thunder might challenge Golden State at the top of the Western Conference.

“I think he does a really good job,” Presti said. “But these jobs are really hard. You can draw up the best plays or you can put together what you feel is a really good team, and sometimes it doesn’t come to fruition because there’s so many other competing factors and forces that are at play.”

A nagging shoulder injury hampered Paul George ate in the season, defensive stopper Andre Roberson missed the entire season after several setbacks following left knee surgery and guard Alex Abrines was waived for personal reasons.

But Presti remains confident that Donovan can get it done with a core that includes Westbrook and George, the league’s No. 2 scorer.

“I do think getting his (Donovan’s) perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him,” Presti said. “If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself.”

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

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