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While it’ll certainly be strange to see him in anything other than a blue and orange jersey, Russell Westbrook has officially moved on from Oklahoma City.
Westbrook was traded from the Thunder to the Rockets earlier this month for Chris Paul and multiple draft picks, marking the second major move Oklahoma City has made this season. The organization also traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers — where he’ll team up with Kawhi Leonard — for a slew of draft picks this summer.
Many have questioned how Westbrooks game would mesh with Harden’s, despite them having played together before in Oklahoma City. Harden, though, wasn’t worried.
“When you have talent like that, it works itself out,” Harden said earlier this month.
Westbrook echoed his new teammate on Friday. They’ve known each other for two-thirds of Westbrook’s life, he said, and are more than on the same page.
“We’ve been friends for many, many years,” Westbrook said, via ESPN. “Since I was 10, actually. So we’ve played with each other in Oklahoma City, and to be able to win something, you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice parts of your game, and we both understand that.
“We both understand that we have one common goal and that's to win a championship. We understand what we have to do. I'm not worried about it, and I know James isn't worried about it. I can play off the ball. I don't have to touch the ball to impact the game. That's the best way for me to come in and impact this team. I can do other things on the floor to make sure we have a better chance to win.”
The Rockets fell to the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals this season, and have yet to reach the NBA Finals with Harden. In fact, the organization hasn’t reached that point since 1995, when it won its second title.
Even though it’ll likely take a minute for the new group to get on the same page, Westbrook is confident he’ll mesh well with coach Mike D’Antoni’s system in Houston — and hopeful he can take the team to the next level.
“I'll fit right in, personally,” Westbrook said, via ESPN. “Floor spread, it gives me the opportunity to attack, penetrate, kick. Defensively, it'll give me an opportunity to switch and guard and rebound at a high level. Push the break, get us out on the break. A lot of different things.
“I think the style of play is great, something I'm looking forward to, just getting out in space in the open floor, shooters all around and playing that way.”
Saying goodbye to Oklahoma City
Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double for the third-straight year last season, spent his first 11 years in the league in Oklahoma City.
The organization selected him with the No. 4 overall pick in 2008. It’s all he’s ever known.
Though he’s looking forward to a new chapter, the 30-year-old admitted it was no easy task to leave Oklahoma.
“It's tough,” Westbrook said. “It's something that will stay with me the rest of my life, because I basically grew up there, in Oklahoma City. 18-years-old in Oklahoma City and the people, the organization, have never done me wrong. They always stood up for me and my family, always had my back, and I'm very, very grateful and I don't take that for granted.
“Like I said, Sam and [owner] Mr. [Clay] Bennett, Coach [Scott] Brooks, Coach [Billy] Donovan, the whole staff, everybody over there, they always had my best interests, and I can't do nothing but be thankful and be grateful for what they did for me and my family.”
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