Jonathan Feigen: Mike D’Antoni was effusive in his praise for Chris Paul. “I want to thank Chris and what he did for the organization and for me personally. He’s going to be sorely missed. At the same time, I’m excited about working with Westbrook and seeing what we can do.”
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Mark Berman: When asked about Russell Westbrook the first thing Mike D’Antoni wanted to talk about was Chris Paul: “Chris Paul gave me some of my best years of coaching. Enjoyed every second of it. Can only thank him for all he did for Houston and what he does for the NBA every year.”
Mark Berman: Mike D’Antoni on Russell Westbrook: “Russell,obviously,we’re getting another great NBA player. To get a great NBA player u got to lose a great NBA player.Looking forward to being reunited w/him b/c we were together at the Olympics&looking forward to having some great years w/him”
Mark Berman: Mike D’Antoni on landing Russell Westbrook: “I think we’re gonna be, as we were and still are, one of the favorites in the West, if not the favorite. We’re going to go have a great year. I’m excited as heck.”
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey today announced that the team has acquired guard Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for guard Chris Paul, two protected first round picks, and other draft considerations.
“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. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” said Presti. “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.”
Sam Presti: “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. 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.”
Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was fined $25,000 by the NBA for commenting about the Russell Westbrook trade before the deal was official, sources confirmed. The league office has not announced the fine, which is for comments Fertitta made to Houston’s Fox 26 after the Rockets agreed to send Chris Paul and two future first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the perennial All-Star point guard.
The price is really the issue. Most rebuilding teams with holes at point guard — or just lots of holes — expressed little interest in giving up any real assets for Westbrook, sources say. That might have changed by Dec. 15, when most free agents signed this week become trade-eligible again — and by which point some team will feel more desperate than it does today. But given the initial cool response to Westbrook’s availability, the Thunder were correct to pounce early. (I have said many times I would not have given up any real assets for Westbrook. The Heat trading Goran Dragic and blah contracts for him seemed like a fair endgame. The market was indeed cool. But remember the old NBA adage: It only takes one.)
This kind of push-and-pull infected talks between Houston and Oklahoma City on Thursday. (Talks between the Heat and Thunder had quieted by then, sources say.) The Rockets tried to coax Oklahoma City into taking Houston’s 2020 first-rounder, sources say. Oklahoma City refused, and pushed for picks further out. Houston relented, and the two settled on Houston’s 2024 and 2026 picks — both with just top-four protection.
Westbrook was enthusiastic about playing with Harden again, per sources familiar with the talks. That kind of buy-in matters. Both superstars will have to change for this to work, even though Mike D’Antoni will probably stagger minutes as rigidly as he did with Harden and Paul. D’Antoni’s experience coaching Westbrook on Team USA boosted Houston’s comfort level making this deal, sources say. The Thunder belonged to Westbrook in almost every way. The Rockets do not. Maybe that alone will spur some change in him.
Westbrook met with the Thunder front office this week to say he would welcome a trade following Paul George’s departure to the Clippers. But an individual with knowledge of the talks said Westbrook initially broached the subject after OKC’s season ended with a first-round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Paul will return to Oklahoma City, where he played for the then-Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.
Tim MacMahon: The tension between James Harden and Chris Paul, which Rockets considered manageable and not unusual for NBA alpha dogs, didn’t factor into decision to make the trade for Russell Westbrook. Source: “That would not have driven us to do something we otherwise wouldn’t have done.”
He had a clear-cut favorite choice, a league source told The Athletic, and he landed there on Thursday when he was traded to the Houston Rockets for a package of Chris Paul, a pair of first-round draft picks and the rights to swap picks twice in the future. For the Thunder, it’s part of a historic haul of picks acquired over the course of six days for trades involving Paul George, Jerami Grant and Westbrook.
Westbrook, a source said, is intrigued by the possibilities in Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense, by the way Houston spreads the floor and often plays without a center clogging the paint. Westbrook’s expectation is that he’ll have more open driving lanes and that he’ll be surrounded by more shooting than he has been in Oklahoma City. He’s excited, the source said, by the challenges he and Harden can create together for a defense.
The exit strategy was being prepared. After a 10-year stretch in which the Thunder made the playoffs nine times and amassed a winning percentage of 64%, OKC, according to league sources, viewed the 2019-2020 season as its last, best chance at winning a title. The Thunder spent $60 million in luxury tax last season for their 49 wins. But they did so because the alternative was not having two superstars in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder have battled against it since their inception, and with George’s ties to the Los Angeles area, there was no stopping it a second time around. The Thunder staved off the draw of L.A. once before, but after a yearlong, already successful recruiting effort, there was simply nothing left to sell. The partnership with Westbrook was a big part of it, and Westbrook did his part, with the two building a strong relationship both on and off the court. But even as George’s trade request shook the walls of the organization, Westbrook didn’t try to change his mind, according to multiple sources.
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July 18, 2019 | 3:25 am EDT Update
Barry Jackson: Next significant event for Heat could be re-engaging with Wizards if Beal rejects three year, 111 M extension he’s eligible to sign after July 26. For now, Wizards have rejected all trade overtures on Beal, a potential 2021 free agent
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s discussions to move nine-time All-Star guard Chris Paul to a new destination are parked, and an increasing expectation exists that he will start the season with the team, league sources tell ESPN.
Oklahoma City 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 season with the Thunder. For now, there’s a belief that there could be more success exploring trade scenarios again after Dec. 15 — or even the completion of the 2019-20 season, league sources said.
For now, Oklahoma City doesn’t feel a need to surrender draft compensation to unload Paul’s contract, sources said. The Thunder want to be competitive and believe that Paul can serve as a mentor to Gilgeous-Alexander, a second-year guard who’s considered the franchise’s future playmaker.
But I stand by my initial forecast: It may not happen until after next season, but Russell will eventually be dealt by the Warriors once Klay Thompson has recovered from a torn anterior crucial ligament in his left knee — thereby pushing Russell down to third on Golden State’s backcourt depth chart.
Has your play in the BIG3 built any momentum toward an NBA return? Is getting back to the NBA even a goal of yours? Joe Johnson: Yes, I’d love to get back and play in the NBA. It’s not my ultimate goal, it wasn’t my goal getting into the BIG3. But if the opportunity presents itself, I would take upon the challenge. I would love to. But, I got a job to do, and my agent has a job to do. I’m not sure about the momentum or how it’s going, but I just focus on what I can do and what I can control.
Can you clarify for me why there aren’t any tampering charges toward Kawhi or the team he signed with? — @Jay_Since82 from Twitter League officials generally won’t open a tampering investigation until there is formal complaint by at least one team — accompanied by some worthy evidence. The Toronto Raptors have not taken such a step. Nor is there any indication that an official complaint is looming from one of the league’s other 28 teams that did not land Kawhi Leonard. It would be a significant step for the Raptors or any other aggrieved team to push for an actual probe.