OKC Thunder: It's official, Westbrook offered high praise, Paul welcomed back to town

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File

FILE - In this Monday, May 5, 2014 file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives against Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) in the first quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City. A person with knowledge of the situation says the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, a shake up of top point guards and a move that reunites Westbrook with James Harden, Thursday, July 11, 2019.

It's all done.

Going forward, though no player may be more associated with Oklahoma City than Russell Westbrook, barring something unforeseen at the end of his career, he will now and forever be “former Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.”

Reported days ago, the organization made its official announcement of the deal that sent Westbrook to Houston and Chris Paul and two first-round draft picks to Oklahoma City Tuesday evening.

It came via a press release, which also included a long tribute to Westbrook from Thunder general manager Sam Presti, as well acknowledgement from Presti of Paul’s arrival.

Here’s the Westbrook tribute:

“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future. Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” Presti said. “Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.

“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community.

“Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

Westbrook was the fourth overall pick of the Seattle Supersonics in the 2008 NBA draft, yet by the time the season began the Sonics had relocated to OKC.

Westbrook turned 20 and 30 while a member of the Thunder organization. In 11 seasons, he appeared in 821 games, starting 804 and averaging 23 points, 8.4 assists and 7 rebounds.

He was named the 2017 MVP after becoming the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season. That season, Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.4 assists and 10.7 rebounds.

An eight-time All-Star, he averaged triple-doubles his last two seasons in Oklahoma City, as well, making for a three-season run in which he averaged 26.8 points, 10.4 assists and 10.6 rebounds.

Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett, who does not often speak about the team publicly, was also quoted in the release, praising Westbrook.

“I have a great deal of respect for Russell and there is no way to adequately describe our appreciation for what he has meant to Oklahomans,” Bennett said. “His legacy here is immense, and he will be honored by the team for all he has done. We wish he and Nina and their family all the best.

“While this era of Thunder basketball now comes to an end, I’m confident our talented team of people will once again position the Thunder for success in the future.”

As to that future, Presti addressed the arrival of Paul, who spent much of his first two seasons in the NBA in Oklahoma City as a member of the displaced-by-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans Hornets.

“Getting a player of Chris’ caliber gives us another experienced playmaker and leader, while the additional draft picks continue to allow us to further commit to the long-term vision that we are embarking on for the Thunder,” Presti said. “We welcome Chris back to Oklahoma City where as a member of the Hornets he helped to pave the way for the Thunder’s arrival in OKC.”

Paul has started every game of his 950-contest NBA career, averaging 18.5 points, 9.7 assists and 2.2 steals.

Last season, in 58 games with the Houston Rockets, Paul averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds, playing 32 minutes per outing.

In addition to Paul, the Thunder received first-round draft picks, both top-4 protected in the 2024 and 2026 drafts. Additionally, the Thunder received the right to swap first-round picks with Houston in the 2021 and 2025 drafts.