When Russell Westbrook was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets in July, it seemed like Chris Paul got the bad end of that deal. Paul and a handful of draft picks are what the Rockets sent to the Thunder, meaning that Paul went from a perennial playoff contender to a rebuilding team.
It was a big change for the 34-year-old Paul, not to mention a surprise. In an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Paul discussed his feelings about the trade when it originally went down.
“I was shocked. Truth be told, I just talked to Daryl [Morey] a couple days before the trade and he said he wasn’t going to trade me [to Oklahoma City]. That’s funny because that is going to be the alert that pops up on everybody’s phone because nobody knows that. But what the hell, I just said it.”
Once the surprise wore off, Paul was able to gain some perspective on his new situation. He told Spears that in the end he still gets to play ball, and that’s what matters to him.
“I love to hoop too much,” Paul told The Undefeated after scoring 16 points and dishing eight assists in a 107-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. “The way my mind is, as long as we’re on the court we have a chance to win. That’s the way I’ve always been. That’s the way I always will be. I’m just grateful to be hooping. … It could be a lot worse.”
What Paul is doing in Oklahoma City goes beyond just loving to hoop, though. He could treat this like a mercenary situation, just playing and keeping to himself, but he’s done a lot more. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan raved about Paul in The Undefeated, crediting him for flying to Oklahoma City not long after he’d been traded to have dinner with the Thunder’s young core, and for continuing to set an example for all players, whether they’re young guys or veterans.
“The thing I admire about his professionalism is here is a guy at 34 years old who is in at 8:30 in the morning. He is taking care of his body, lifting and eating right. He still has a lot that he wants to do. He could be like, ‘I’m 34. I don’t have time for these young guys. I don’t have time for this.’ And he does it. He is a real relationship person, which for our team has been great.”
Spears wrote in The Undefeated that Paul has been mentoring a number of young players on the team, and team sources told him that Paul’s “positive energy ... can be felt every day.” And like any good mentor, Paul knows that he can learn from the guys he’s teaching.
“We have a great group of guys. I smile a lot. I laugh a lot. As much as everyone talks about me being an older veteran, I get a chance to learn a lot, too. It’s been cool.”
Paul’s time with the Thunder may be short, because he’s still an attractive trade candidate, but he’s making the most of his new situation. That’s all anyone can ask of a veteran who was blindsided by a trade to a rebuilding team.
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