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Thunder: Paul honors former teammates in court dedication

Chris Paul stood in the middle of a vibrant court with waves of blue, yellow, red and purple. The words “family first, family last, family always” were painted in black letters behind him.

The Thunder point guard, crowded among a group of attentive children, dedicated a refurbished indoor basketball court Friday afternoon at Family T.R.E.E in Oklahoma City — a “transformative space” for families involved in the child welfare system.

“They just want somewhere to play,” Paul said. “A safe haven. That’s what kids should have.”

The court was designed with a personal touch. Zodiac signs for Paul and his family filled the paint.

And on the back wall and to the left of the rim was the name Rasual Butler and the No. 45 below it. On the right side of the basket was the name Jackson Vroman and the No. 4.

Butler and Vroman were teammates of Paul when the New Orleans Hornets relocated to Oklahoma City in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

Butler died in 2018. Vroman died in 2015.

“I started my career here in Oklahoma City, and probably none of y’all were born,” said Paul, turning around to see a few hands raised for kids born before 2005.

“If not for those guys, basketball might not be here in Oklahoma City,” Paul said. “Two of my teammates that played with me then have now gone onto a better place.”

Representing the city

Thunder players ran onto the court Thursday in unfamiliar colors: charcoal and gold.

It marked the first wearing of the new “City” uniforms, designed to honor those affected by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

“It was lovely, wasn’t it? Very touching and moving,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “It was quite special, bro, just everything … A lot of Oklahomans would have been very proud and happy, and hopefully our organization did a good job representing that.”

The uniforms are filled with symbolism, like the Gates of Time running down the side of the jerseys and the Survivor Tree on the waistband.

"Guys on the team, we were excited to wear them,” Paul said. “Steve-O in the locker room was like, 'When are we wearing them again?'”

Injury update

Thunder center Nerlens Noel will not play Saturday night against the Lakers, coach Billy Donovan said after practice Friday.

Noel hasn't played since Jan. 4 when he sprained his left ankle at Cleveland.

"I don't have any timetable for him," Donovan said. "He is getting better. He is improving. There's been nothing that's set him back any further than he already was. Everything's been positive, but again, we're gonna be cautious with him and make sure he's in a really good place before he comes back on the floor."

Noel is averaging 7.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18 minutes per game as the Thunder's backup center.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul leads a basketball clinic with youth from Family TREE in Oklahoma City after the dedication of a refurbished basketball court. The refurbishment was completed by a partnership of the Chris Paul Family Foundation, Spalding and State Farm. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul leads a basketball clinic with youth from Family TREE in Oklahoma City after the dedication of a refurbished basketball court. The refurbishment was completed by a partnership of the Chris Paul Family Foundation, Spalding and State Farm. [Nate...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e7401a26e9c12f111e2ea94cccfa69ee.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul leads a basketball clinic with youth from Family TREE in Oklahoma City after the dedication of a refurbished basketball court. The refurbishment was completed by a partnership of the Chris Paul Family Foundation, Spalding and State Farm. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul leads a basketball clinic with youth from Family TREE in Oklahoma City after the dedication of a refurbished basketball court. The refurbishment was completed by a partnership of the Chris Paul Family Foundation, Spalding and State Farm. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul leads a basketball clinic with youth from Family TREE in Oklahoma City after the dedication of a refurbished basketball court. The refurbishment was completed by a partnership of the Chris Paul Family Foundation, Spalding and State Farm. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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