New Thunder guard Chris Paul has helped usher in a new day in OKC before
Chris Paul was there for Oklahoma City at the beginning.
Now, he’ll be here for a new beginning.
Thursday evening came the news everyone was expecting – Russell Westbrook has been traded. Since the stunning trade of Paul George over the weekend, we have been anticipating this moment. The only question was when and who.
Would it be Miami for several young players?
Or would it be Houston for, well, what?
We got our answer just after dinnertime as Houston decided to trade CP3 and first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026 plus pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 for Russ.
So ends an era; no more members of the original Thunder roster remain in Oklahoma City.
So begins a new day.
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Folks will be talking a lot the next few weeks about Westbrook and James Harden reuniting. They played together for the Thunder, as we all know, but their connection is much deeper. The NBA MVPs were friends growing up in Los Angeles, so maybe this combination is what Daryl Morey has been looking for in trying to put together a championship team.
But in Oklahoma City, we will be talking about what was lost. A cornerstone. A foundational player. A guy who might drive you nuts but was the thread running through every monumental moment in Thunder lore.
Now, he’ll be wearing Rocket red instead of Thunder blue.
Nothing will change that for a long time.
Still, I’m glad Chris Paul is coming to town to help Oklahoma City adjust to a new day. He’s done this before, you know. When the Hornets got flooded out of New Orleans and washed up in Oklahoma City, CP3 was a baby-faced rookie. Hadn’t played a minute of NBA ball. Was still more closely linked with Wake Forest than New Orleans.
But he was a total rock. He said the right things. Did the right things. Acted the right way.
Those were the days, remember, when plenty of basketball folks thought the NBA had no place in Oklahoma City. Charles Barkley famously called our state “vast wasteland.” The TNT analyst just happened to be interviewing CP3 when he made his assessment of our state.
Paul handled it as well as anyone could’ve.
Frankly, he’s never spoken ill of Oklahoma. A few years back when he was with the Clippers and the Thunder was in its early days, one of our Thunder reporters asked Paul about his OKC days. The Hornets stayed for two years before returning to New Orleans, and even though Paul had become something of an enemy of the Thunder state in the meantime, he couldn’t say enough nice things about his days in Oklahoma.
“Preseason games were crazy,” he said. “Every game we played, I’ve never seen fan support like that.”
Neither had the NBA. A year after Paul and Hornets left, the Thunder arrived in Oklahoma City, and our lives have never been the same. We have watched a bunch of young guns grow into a contender that we thought would last forever. But even when Harden was traded and Kevin Durant left and everything changed, Russell Westbrook remained.
For 11 years, he was the constant.
Now, he is gone, and a new day has dawned.
I’m not saying the new day will be good right away. Sam Presti is playing the long game here, acquiring a whopping eight first-round draft picks over the past month. But many of the players who will be selected with those picks haven’t started college. A few haven’t even started high school.
There will be some tough times.
But Chris Paul leading the charge is exciting. No doubt he feels like he’s got something to prove, having been shown the door in Houston. No doubt he’s starting to think about legacy, though it’s hard to imagine he’s anything other than a hall of famer already.
The 34-year-old’s pro career could begin and end in the same place. The circumstances are completely different this time around, but CP3 may well have just as big an impact on OKC.
Just as he did 14 years ago, Paul has the ability and the opportunity to help us find our way once again.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.