Oklahoma City Thunder Rumors
Vasilije Micic on offers received during the summer: ‘There were some 90 percent clear offers from the NBA, not 100 but 90 percent about details in the contract. And of course, I didn’t expect any promises like minutes-wise, but a kind of a role with Oklahoma [City Thunder]. And when I realized that Oklahoma was still not sure, because they had actually one and a half months extra with the NBA draft to see how many players they would take and what they would want to do with the trades, for me it was too long to wait. It was too long, especially when I had that offer from CSKA [Moscow]. Of course I spoke with Efes. I wanted to give them priority, if they could offer me something similar. I’m happy that they understood that I wanted to stay here and not leave just because someone said that I had to leave.’
On the way out, Allouche asks Shai about basketball. Shai begins doing his invisible dribbling routine again, but this time no one comes to guard him. Allouche wants to know what position Shai plays, a bit out of touch with the trappings of modern basketball. Who can blame him? He’s only an art dealer. Shai, seeing he’s been left wide open, swishes a free one. “Me?” he says, casting a devilish little grin. “Well, I’m the Black Steve Nash.”
Joe Mussatto: The Thunder has signed Paul Watson Jr. to a two-way contract. pic.twitter.com/4EIsp0zjq6
“I know what I want to do with this game and ultimately, very few do,” Shai tells me. “I knew that if I got an opportunity, that I’d work hard enough and take advantage of it.” He thinks about his time before blowing up with the University of Kentucky’s legendary hoops program: how, as a high schooler from Canada sharing a bedroom with Nickeil in their coach’s home in Tennessee, he didn’t make the McDonald’s All-American Game. How he only had one offer from lowly Binghamton University, and how, upon signing with Kentucky, he became the team’s lowest-rated recruit. There’s a big gap from there to here: getting picked 11th by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018, and now signing a max contract—five years, $172 million —extension with OKC this summer. “Ever since then, I never looked back. I want to be one of the best point guards to ever play,” he says. “I’m not playing this game just to be a good basketball player. I want to be one of the greatest to ever play.”
His first season in the league seemed from the outside to be a success story. He made the All-Rookie Second Team in the NBA and looked like the Clippers’s future at point guard. But his resilience was tested early: Kawhi Leonard had instructed the team to trade for Paul George, and so Shai became a trade chip, sent to Oklahoma. He maintains that the trade didn’t rattle him. “It didn’t really sting,” he says. “But it was surprising. It showed me at the end of the day, the NBA is a business. That’s what it comes down to. My job is to play basketball. That’s what I get paid to do, right? Whatever city that’s in, it won’t matter. I’m just blessed it’s in OKC.”
“I’ve always been into clothes. I’ve always liked dressing up as a kid,” he tells me. “It comes from my parents—they always made sure we’d look proper when we left the house and that we met the standard they tried to uphold.” Shai’s mother, Charmaine Gilgeous, was a sprinter in the Olympics in 1992 for Antigua and Barbuda. Shai was born six years later. Charmaine and Vaughn Alexander, a basketball coach, would make sure their boys knew the rules of the runway early. “If we left the house with something on our face, or we weren’t clean we were hearing about it. There was always an image to uphold. Both of them don’t play.”
Typically, Shai says, he’s naturally more of a homebody—someone who revels in binge-watching Burn Notice with his cousin, Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, spending time with his girlfriend (who he was doing all of this shopping for…mostly….he swears), and humming Drake bangers. At the counter in Dover Street Market, he breaks into an invisible crossover while his friend, Walter Harvin, a Harlem fashionista, plays imaginary defense. Shai doesn’t always want everyone to see these moments. He’s taciturn on purpose: the entire world doesn’t need to know what Shai is like in his down time.