(Photo by Michael Kinney)
By Michael Kinney
It took a while, but all the paperwork is finally in. After 11 years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook has officially been traded to the Houston Rockets, Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced Tuesday night.
“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state,” Presti said in a statement. “None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”
In his 11 seasons in the NBA, Westbrook Westbrook appeared in 821 games and averaged 23.0 points, 8.4 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 1.76 steals. He earned 2016-17 NBA MVP after becoming the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double over a season.
Before the trade become official, Westbrook posted his thoughts concerning his time in Oklahoma City on one of his social media accounts.
“I can’t even begin to put into words all of the emotions I have right now. It’s been one heck of a journey Oklahoma! When I came here, I was 18 years old, bright eyed, and completely unaware of all the amazing things that would soon take place,” Westbrook posted. “I grew up in Oklahoma with an amazing bunch of people. The people here are what makes this place so special… I’m leaving Oklahoma with so many friends and so much gratitude. I could never thank you all enough for sticking with me. It’s been a dream and a whirlwind. #WHYNOT.”
However, Presti also hinted in his statement, that the momentum behind trading their corner stone point guard was not one-sided.
“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future. Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him,” Presti said. “As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this. Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.”
Thunder chairman Clayton Bennett also acknowledge what Westbrook has meant to the franchise in the 11 year it has been in Oklahoma City.
“I have a great deal of respect for Russell and there is no way to adequately describe our appreciation for what he has meant to Oklahomans,” Bennett said. “His legacy here is immense, and he will be honored by the team for all he has done. We wish he and Nina and their family all the best. While this era of Thunder basketball now comes to an end, I’m confident our talented team of people will once again position the Thunder for success in the future.”
Now that Westbrook is officially off the Thunder roster, the franchise has started too look ahead. And as of right now, that future will include guard Chris Paul, who was part of the trade for Westbrook, along with two first round picks.
It had been assumed by NBA analyst and media members that the Thunder would try and trade the 34-year old Paul. But with $123 million owed to him over the next three seasons, there may have not been many teams willing to take on that type of contract.
However, Paul’s resume does speak for itself. In 14 seasons with the New Orleans and Oklahoma City Hornets, the LA Clippers and the Rockets, Paul has appeared in 950 games and averaged 18.5 points, 9.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.23 steals in 35.1 minutes.
A nine-time All-Star, Paul has been named to the All-NBA team on eight occasions, led the league in steals six times and assists four times. He has also been named to nine NBA All-Defensive Teams. Paul is the only player in NBA history to average at least 18.0 points, 9.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals.
Paul has yet to speak publicly about the trade.
“Getting a player of Chris’ caliber gives us another experienced playmaker and leader, while the additional draft picks continue to allow us to further commit to the long-term vision that we are embarking on for the Thunder,” Presti said. “We welcome Chris back to Oklahoma City where as a member of the Hornets he helped to pave the way for the Thunder’s arrival in OKC.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider