Oklahoma City did very well in getting a haul in return for George, one that helps jumpstart a rebuilding process just getting underway, but it’s still a punch to the gut that the trade happened. A year ago Paul George didn’t even meet with the Lakers and chose to stay in OKC with Russell Westbrook. It was a win for a small market that bet big. One year later, George was forcing his way back to Southern California to team up with another superstar – a power move star players can pull off, but it stings in OKC nonetheless.
Thunder GM Sam Presti handled it with class in the statement he made announcing the trade.
“From the time that Paul and his representation made us aware of what had been transpiring and their subsequent request, our focus as an organization was identifying the best paths for our future,” said Presti. “Resiliency has been a staple of our city and our franchise, and this challenge provided us with another opportunity to demonstrate that. Our goal with this transaction was to create value both in the short and long term and help reposition and replenish the organization’s future platform. We are thrilled to welcome two extremely talented and efficient players in Shai and Danilo. Moving forward, we will continue to utilize the method that has helped us create the foundation for the last 11 seasons of Thunder basketball.
“The Thunder thanks Paul for his contributions to the organization and our community. We are proud that Paul is a part of our history as an organization and that some of the best basketball of his career was in Oklahoma City. He should be remembered fondly; we wish him and his family the best.”
A couple of quick thoughts here:
The phrasing “made us aware of what had been transpiring and their subsequent request” is a subtle dig at Kawhi Leonard and tampering. George was under contract, Leonard recruited him and convinced him to come. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver read the mood of his owners in Las Vegas and they are bothered by how free agency negotiations have gone, and there could be changes coming. That said, good luck stopping players from recruiting one another.
On another front, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst drew a comparison to how Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert handled LeBron James leaving the first time.
In the 9 years since “The Letter” it’s been interesting to watch the artful public statements teams now make after superstars depart. Just another way LeBron was part of changing the league forever.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 10, 2019
Paul George, for his part, said a classy goodbye to the fans of OKC on Twitter. That’s not going to stop him from getting booed next year, but he seemed to genuinely like the city, fans, and organization.
Thank you Oklahoma for 2 great years, you took me in as one of your own from the day I touched down. Thank you to the fans who make representing those 3 letters mean something. Thank you to Sam and Clay for being the best management a franchise and player could ask for. Thank you to the friends within the organization that took care of my family and I whenever we needed help. The picture shown is a bond that can’t be broken I truly loved and enjoyed the race from start to finish. Thank you OKLAHOMA! You already know what it is @russwest44! Love brodie!
A post shared by Paul George (@ygtrece) on Jul 6, 2019 at 7:22pm PDT