OKC Thunder: Billy Donovan's night included an earthquake, then the Paul George trade
Billy Donovan says he doesn’t know how the Paul George trade request came down. “I wasn’t privy to that,” Donovan said.
But Donovan was clued in by Sam Presti that the Thunder world had been flipped upside down, eventually resulting in both George and Russell Westbrook being traded. And the overnight of July 4-5-6, when George was dealt to the Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and five – five! -- first-round draft picks was momentous for Donovan. And not just because of the trade.
I chatted with Donovan last week and wrote for the Monday Oklahoman about his reactions to the Thunder upheaval. You can read that column here.
Most Oklahomans can tell you how they found out about the George trade. I had awoken and staggered to the bathroom when I saw it on my phone. Others were night owls who saw it before they slumbered. But few have a story to match Donovan’s.
“It was a crazy day, because I ended up staying back here, because we were going to summer league,” Donovan said. “So on July 5, myself, a couple of coaches, we stayed back here, Steven (Adams) was here, a couple of other players here, we were working out some players. The team left on July 4 to go out there, the first game wasn’t until the sixth. So I said, you know what, I’m going to stay back.
“So I ended up catching an afternoon flight, July 5. I left at like 4 o’clock, a direct flight to Vegas. I got in, you’re a little screwed up with the time change. Checked into the hotel. Went and grabbed something to eat at the hotel, I get back to the room.”
That’s when a significant earthquake hit Las Vegas.
“Sitting there, next thing I know, the doors start swinging open and closed,” Donovan said. “I’m like, ‘OK, now it feels like the whole building is getting ready to tip over.’ I’ve been in a few subtle earthquakes here. Not like that. So I go to the window, because I actually felt like the building was swaying. You look out the window, it’s not moving. So I kind of went downstairs.
“This lady was hysterical in the hallway. She says, ‘I heard it’s’ – she was like from the Northeast -- she said, ‘I heard it’s dangerous to take an elevator.’ I said, listen, if you want to try to go down 40 flights of stairs before this place collapses, great. I’m going to take my risk, see if I can get downstairs in about 10 seconds. So I ended up going down there, checking with the front desk. ‘No, everything’s OK.’
“A second one hit, not quite as severe, so I ended up going to bed at 10, 10:30” Vegas time.
Then the trade went through and Donovan got the phone call.
“Obviously the front-office guys had reached out to say what had happened,” Donovan said.
“So you’re kind of like, wow, this just happened,” Donovan said.
But perhaps his perspective was streamlined by a hotel that seemed to shake and a woman who was out of control. Some things can always be worse.
“Some of this stuff, for me as a coach, is out of your control, it’s just out of your control,” Donovan said.
A few days later, the tremors – the basketball kind – continued. Westbrook was traded to the Rockets, and a new Thunder era had begun.