Sam Presti press release on Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul: 3 Key takeaways

OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook and general manager Sam Presti (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook and general manager Sam Presti (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
2008, Russell Westbrook OKC Thunder goes up for a dunk over Antonio McDyess & Arron Afflalo (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Presti considers Russell Westbrook as his greatest accomplishment:

Over the course of the 11 years of the franchise, there were times pundits and fans called for changes. The prevailing negative sentiments focused on either trading Russell Westbrook or changing his role. During the era in which Kevin Durant was still with OKC, they leaned more to a need for Westbrook to be corralled.

Durant was never the player to receive criticism other than one article which was quickly altered by an apology. Nope, Westbrook was tapped as the bad seed and repeatedly took criticism while KD was the golden child who could do no wrong.

With Durant’s departure, the shift to embracing Westbrook was made all the easier when he elected to re-sign and stay in OKC and went on to carry an underwhelming cast of characters to the postseason in his inaugural triple-double MVP season.

First, let’s be clear, it may have taken a while for others to fall in line with Presti’s thinking but Russell Westbrook is the player the GM seemed the proudest of drafting. That’s somewhat understandable given both Durant and Harden were no brainer draft selections while Russ was considered a bit of a reach. When the Brodie proved Presti right it gave credence to his ability to assess talent.

That said, there were also growing pains along the way and some may have been fueled by Presti’s reluctance to push Westbrook to do things differently. Let’s leave P.J. Carlesimo out of the equation since 13 games don’t offer a large enough sample size. But, in the case of both Scott Brooks and Billy Donovan neither was capable of reigning Russ in. Whether that was a choice or an inability to get Westbrook’s buy-in remains unanswered.

I’d argue this past season Russ did change his penchant for trying to do everything and further augment that with his acceptance to defer to Paul George. The latter could also be cited as part of the issue with Westbrook’s shooting regression.

Some may scoff at this suggestion but consider how important constancy is to the rhythm for players. All players say they need to get a certain number of shots and consistent playing time to be at their best. Westbrook had always been the man tasked with creating the offense and registered two of the highest ball usage seasons in NBA history including his MVP season. Then factor in what a creature of habit Westbrook is.

Westbrook’s personality centers around repetition in all aspects of his life even down to how he prepared for games, pre-game meals, and handled shootarounds. It was even suggested his struggles at the charity stripe arose because the NBA stopped players from moving past center court between free throws (something that was part of Russ’ routine).

For as much as Presti likely knew it was time to move on from Westbrook in order to get out from under the Thunder unfeasible continuing luxury tax situation to enter a rebuilding phase it also was likely the hardest trade of his tenure.

Presti makes his feelings clear (and backs up this takeaway) calling Russell Westbrook the most important player in the brief OKC Thunder history.