The Oklahoma City Thunder had one of the most active offseasons of any team in the league, an unexpected twist from a team that appeared to have a core set in stone for the next few seasons with Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
However, after another disappointing offseason, George’s mind began to wander and he allowed himself to once again dream of a return home to Los Angeles. At the urging of Kawhi Leonard, George quietly requested a trade to the Clippers to join Leonard in a move that, for the third or fourth time that offseason, significantly shifted the balance of power in the league. The Thunder received a bounty of first round picks, swaps, and coveted rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, signaling a new era in OKC.
With that trade complete, attention shifted to Russell Westbrook who was likely not wanting to be part of a rebuild. Westbrook was eventually dealt to the rival Rockets, again for more first round picks and swaps, along with Chris Paul, giving Houston some new blood and re-pairing Westbrook with James Harden. It was a stunning turn of events for most everyone around the league, but as Westbrook recently told Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated, the George request didn’t surprise him much at all as they had a constant dialogue that summer.
“I can’t be surprised if me and Paul were in communication the whole time,” Westbrook says. “So I wouldn’t say I was surprised at all. I’m all for doing what’s best for my teammates. If Paul felt like it was time for him to move on and explore options, then I’mma back him. That’s the type of relationship we have.”
George had previously said it was always the plan to give it another year in OKC and then re-evaluate things, a scenario Sam Presti politely denied as being something he planned on later this summer. While Presti may not have been fully looped in, it seems Westbrook was and there are no hard feelings this time around with the exit of a star teammate.
All parties seem to be in a good place now, with George and Westbrook paired with new stars on title contenders and the Thunder with a solid roster for this year with tons of future flexibility to try and rebuild once again through the draft, relieving the pressure of having to compete now in a loaded West with a team that’s flamed out in back-to-back postseasons. While this summer didn’t go as hoped for any of them, it seems as though at least Westbrook and George were on the same page throughout the process.