3 Off-season ThoughtsPhoto by Ned Dishman, NBAE/Getty Images

3 Off-season Thoughts

1. Shock and Hope

It seems like just yesterday that Paul George, with his arms draped around Russell Westbrook, announced that he was “here to stay.”  But it wasn’t just yesterday, and today the Oklahoma City Thunder are without both George and Westbrook.

The mutuality of the decision that sparked George to request a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers (and then the trade of Westbrook to Houston) may be a mystery that will linger forever, but the greater intrigue for Thunder fans now is what’s next.

The treasure trove of assets that Sam Presti was able to acquire in trading two superstars is unprecedented, but there is more unknown now than when the team first landed in Oklahoma City.  At least then the team had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Am I disappointed that the Thunder lost both George and Westbrook? Absolutely.  But I can’t help but be excited about the unknown. While I wouldn’t trade the feeling of euphoria watching the team advance to the NBA Finals in 2012, I hope to again capture that feeling of watching a team full of potential.  This is, indeed, the greatest unknown, but also the greatest opportunity to see something truly special.

2. Chris Paul

Does Chris Paul flop?  Absolutely. But is Paul a flop?  Absolutely, not. While much of Thunder nation held a distaste for Paul, I never felt that way.  Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember the pride I felt watching Paul wear a jersey that said, “Oklahoma City.”  But whatever the reason, I felt a little bit of that same pride seeing Paul put on a Thunder practice t-shirt and tour the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  Oklahoma City may not have been spoiled with a championship, but it’s been spoiled silly with the cavalcade of potential Hall of Famers who have worn a Thunder jersey–Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and now Chris Paul.

I hope that the fans do the right thing and give Paul a massive ovation on October 25, 2019–that first time Paul is announced as starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

3. Goodbye, Russell Westbrook

Expectations should be tempered this season.  There should be zero title aspirations (including, even a division title).  While I think there are a hundred reasons to watch the Thunder this season, the timing could not be better for a rebuild.  Without the need to live and die by every Thunder win and loss, for the first time in like, ever, I can watch the rest of the league like a fan.  I can watch Westbrook in Houston’s red and genuinely hope the best for him.

That’s a rare thing for a fan.  Typically, when your guy leaves your team, he’s no longer your guy. Westbrook, on the other hand, will always be my guy.  While we’ve seen more than our fair share of players giving lip service to the team and to the city (see, Durant, Kevin and George, Paul), Westbrook never did paid lip service.  He paid with loyalty.

Is it going to sting a little when I see Westbrook sprint up the court and throw down his signature one-handed hammer but in a Houston jersey?  100%, yes. But am I going to watch that? Am I going to cheer for that? 100%, yes.