The Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to rebuild after essentially being forced to unload Paul George and Russell Westbrook over the summer, but George believes his former team came away just fine after dealing him to the Los Angeles Clippers.
After George’s go-ahead three-pointer with just over 25 seconds left helped the Clippers defeat Oklahoma City on Monday, the star swingman said he believes the trade OKC made involving him “worked out great.” He was complimentary of second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran Danilo Gallinari, whom the Thunder acquired in the deal, and pointed to all the draft picks his former team landed.
“I thought it worked out great for them,” George said, via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “I think Shai is a future star, and he’s proven that he can carry a load … him just being under (Chris Paul), he is going to learn so much. So they got a star.
“And Danilo is a proven big-time scorer. And then how many picks that they got? Their future is bright. Sam Presti is a proven expert at drafting.”
Gilgeous-Alexander is certainly off to a hot start, as he’s averaging 19.7 points per game. Gallinari was only involved in the deal to match salaries, but the Thunder landed a whopping five first-round picks in the George trade (two from the Miami Heat) and the rights to swap two future first-rounders. If you have to trade a star player, that is the way to do it.
Obviously, the Thunder would rather still have George and Westbrook. George is right that they will be in good hands with Presti building the roster, but there have been rumblings about him potentially leaving to join another organization. If that happens, it would be one of Oklahoma City’s biggest losses to date.
Kevin Durant spent the first eight years of his career with the Thunder and once believed Oklahoma City would always feel like home to him, but that changed in a hurry for the two-time NBA Finals MVP after the way he was treated when he signed with the Golden State Warriors.
In an interview with J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal that was published this week, Durant unloaded on the Thunder organization and fans in OKC for everything that has unfolded since he left. He said his perception of the fans changed when they went berserk over his decision to leave in free agency three years ago.
“People coming to my house and spray-painting on the for sale signs around my neighborhood,” Durant recalled. “People making videos in front of my house and burning my jerseys and calling me all types of crazy names.”
It wasn’t just the fans. Durant says the Thunder have also acted “fake” to him, and he has not maintained a positive relationship with anyone in the team’s front office since his departure.
“I’ll never be attached to that city again because of that,” Durant said. “I eventually wanted to come back to that city and be part of that community and organization, but I don’t trust nobody there. That s— must have been fake, what they was doing. The organization, the GM, I ain’t talked to none of those people, even had a nice exchange with those people, since I left.”
Fans reacted similarly when LeBron James left Cleveland the first time, but he still chose to return to the Cavaliers and deliver on his promise of bringing the franchise its first NBA title. Durant has no interest in doing the same in OKC.
In addition to the vandalism and jersey burning, Durant’s mother Wanda has also spoken about the nasty treatment she has dealt with from Thunder fans. KD is extremely close with his mom, so that is likely a factor as well.
Durant has a tendency to hold grudges and can be very thin-skinned, so it’s no surprise he wants nothing to do with Oklahoma City. Fans can be irrational, but Durant isn’t the type of guy to overlook being disrespected.
The Oklahoma City Thunder may have never intended to keep Chris Paul when they acquired him as part of the deal that sent Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets, but they are doing everything they can to convince rival teams that is not the way they view it.
Team executives have found that the Thunder are trying to create the impression that they want to keep Paul to help mentor their younger players, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on “The Jump” this week. However, they are privately hoping something will change this offseason that will inspire a team to make an offer for the veteran point guard.
“Here’s what executives expect to happen: They expect the Thunder to put out a message that, ‘We’re not looking to trade Chris Paul. We want him here. We want him as part of our unit with our young guys,'” Windhorst said. “They don’t want anybody to think they’re panicked trying to trade him. They want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul.”
The Thunder have traded Westbrook and Paul George and entered a complete rebuilding phase, so no one is going to believe they want to keep Paul. Taking on his contract was the only way they were able to send Westbrook to Houston. There have been some indications that Paul will begin the season in OKC, but that won’t be due to a lack of effort to trade him.
While Paul is still capable of playing at a high level, he has battled injuries in recent years and turned 34 in May. The Thunder can only hope a contending team gets desperate at some point between now and next season’s trade deadline.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s trade of Paul George opened the door for an ensuing trade of Russell Westbrook, but it sounds like the team was willing to part ways with their longtime franchise star well before then.
Jovan Buha and Sam Amick combined for an excellent, information-packed article in The Athletic on the Clippers’ signing of Kawhi Leonard. Acquiring George from the Thunder was an essential move in landing Leonard, so the reporters provided some background on that trade.
In the article, Buha and Amick reported that both Westbrook and George expressed their discontent to the Thunder around the time of the draft. They also said they were told the Thunder were willing to discuss a Westbrook trade prior to the draft.
From the article:
Yet one rival team indicated to The Athletic that the Thunder were willing to discuss the prospect of trading Westbrook leading into the draft, with that revelation seen as a sign that they were considering changes even before George made his move.
The way things unfolded with George asking for a trade and getting his way first created a perfect chance for Westbrook to be traded without it being as painful for the fan base; losing George was the gut punch and probably convinced most fans trading Westbrook was the next logical step. The George trade allowed both the Thunder and Westbrook a way out of their union without either taking the public beating they may have received otherwise.
Damian Lillard effectively ended an era of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise as we knew it with his walk-off shot to eliminate them from the playoffs.
Lillard hit a deep 37-foot 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left to break a 115-115 tie with the Thunder in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. In response to all the beef between his Portland Trail Blazers and the Thunder, Lillard gave a wave to OKC after making the shot. As if the shot wasn’t impressive enough, it also gave him an even 50 points in the game. The shot and Game 5 effort were true testaments to his ability and standing in the league.
Lillard joined the Sports Business Radio Podcast for an interview published on Tuesday. They were talking about the evolution of “Dame Time” and brought up the shot that ended the Thunder.
“What can I say? That was for Seattle,” Lillard said of the shot, while laughing.
The elimination marked the third straight year the Thunder lost in the first round of the playoffs. The team was capped out and couldn’t make many offseason moves, but that doesn’t mean the franchise didn’t change. Paul George requested a trade and was dealt to the Clippers. Russell Westbrook was later sent to Houston. Now a team that had 10 straight winning seasons is looking at their first rebuild since moving to Oklahoma City. SuperSonics fans meanwhile suffered through three bad seasons in a row to end the team’s time in Seattle, and Oklahoma City got to enjoy the benefits when they turned things around.
As Dame said, that was for Seattle.
Chris Paul’s contract will likely ensure that he starts the season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on Wednesday’s edition of The Jump that there is little momentum towards a trade right now, and Paul is likely to open the regular season with Oklahoma City.
— NBA The Jump Fanpage (@NBATheJumpFP) July 17, 2019
— NBA The Jump Fanpage (@NBATheJumpFP) July 17, 2019
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski essentially said the same thing on Twitter, adding that both Paul and the Thunder believe a year together could prove beneficial.
Story filed to ESPN: Oklahoma City’s discussions to move nine-time All-Star guard Chris Paul onto a new destination are parked and an increasing expectation exists that he will start the season with the Thunder.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 17, 2019
OKC has been working with Paul and his representatives on finding a trade, but nothing is materializing so deep into summer free agency, sources said. Both sides believe there are benefits to Paul, 34, playing out the year with the Thunder. https://t.co/LjHCdLPZVg
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 17, 2019
Things have been trending this way for a while. As it stands, Paul’s remaining contract is not of interest to any teams, and the Thunder simply aren’t going to kick in a draft pick to get rid of him. It may not be anyone’s ideal scenario, but it’s simply the way things are going to be for a while.
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti has torn down the team’s roster about as effectively as you could hope for when entering a rebuilding phase, but that does not mean he is pleased with the way the offseason has gone.
Despite acquiring 15 future first-round picks by trading Paul George and Russell Westbrook, Presti was apparently devastated he was essentially forced to blow the team up. One high-ranking Thunder executive tried to describe the disappointment to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
“Sam acted like his dog died after trading Paul George,” the exec said.
However, the exec said Presti is realistic enough to know his team had reached its potential with Westbrook, and the disappointing result in the playoffs the past two years proved that.
“Sam won’t admit it, but he’s too smart to not know this team reached its ceiling with Westbrook,” he added.
For what it’s worth, other executives across the NBA praised Presti for the haul he got in return for George and Westbrook. Some even said they have the brightest future in the NBA and are fortunate Kawhi Leonard wanted to play with George so badly.
“Kawhi’s recruiting gave OKC an out,” one Western Conference executive told O’Connor. “Trading George allowed them to trade Russ without backlash.”
Presti has watched Westbrook, George, Kevin Durant and James Harden come through Oklahoma City, so you can understand why he’s crushed that all of them left town without a championship. However, he handled things masterfully with the George trade and even used some scare tactics to get the Clippers to give up an unprecedented package of draft picks. If you have to start from scratch, that is exactly how you make the most of a bad situation.