Chris Paul talked with teammates about OKC Thunder trading him

MARCH 06: Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder in action against the New York Knicks (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
MARCH 06: Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder in action against the New York Knicks (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Chris Paul and his OKC Thunder teammates had a candid conversation about the possibility of the organization trading him

Coming into the 2019-20 season, OKC Thunder fans didn’t know exactly what to expect from the year. Paul George, the player the team had surprisingly just signed to a new contract the previous summer in free agency, had privately requested a trade to team up with Kawhi Leonard on the LA Clippers.

Russell Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets, and just like that the team looked vastly different than it did at the end of the year before. It wasn’t inconceivable that the team might trade Chris Paul (return in the Westbrook deal) and Steven Adams while they could, continuing to pile assets in order to build moving forward.

Paul, who was gaining a poor reputation due to a poor systematic fit in Houston, had a huge bounce-back season with a quality, fighting team in Oklahoma City. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued to prove his NBA readiness, and the Thunder were surprise competitors in the deep Western Conference, where they entered the suspension ranked fifth in the standings.

Questions remain about how Sam Presti and the Thunder will continue to build. But one thing is for sure — Paul has proven a lot for himself and what is still left unsaid of his career, and he’s proven the Thunder in the process along with his teammates.

So, how did this team, circled with rumors of the transactions they might make this season, power through the unsettled nature of the team and the rumors that flew around them?

They addressed the elephant in the room. Chris Paul led that charge.

Speaking to Candance Parker and Kristen Ledlow, Paul said, “I knew the only way we could be successful in OKC is if we all trusted each other.” Paul went on to talk about how they primed their season with raw discussion on what everyone was thinking:

"“One of our first weeks of camp or whatnot, we were in the film room and we just had a real discussion. And it was like ‘look, fellas, I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, like, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You know, they be saying I might get traded he might get traded, but whatever it is let’s not just walk in here and act like we don’t know about it. Let’s just know that while we are here, we’re all in,’ and that’s how we approached our season.”"

It wouldn’t do the team’s culture good to have festering questions over what is to come and what each player thought about it. Paul, the veteran he is, knows locker room dynamics and how important they can be too achieving a team’s goals and wisely nipped the questions and the weird air.

Paul has been a welcome veteran presence, and in a league where players have great power and can exercise it, it’s a welcome change to see a veteran accept his role and lean into it.

Andre Iguodala utilized the fact that he had some significant player power and negotiated with the Memphis Grizzlies, telling them he would not play for them even though they acquired him in a trade. The Grizzlies agreed, and eventually traded him to the Miami Heat.

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Paul perhaps could have gone a similar route. If not negotiating a trade, he could have certainly come to the team with a poor attitude, but he did not.

He’s stepped into his role as a mentor while still contributing at a high level for the team. For players like Gilgeous-Alexander, he’ll have a great impact on their careers.

"“[Gilgeous-Alexnader and I] sort of got closer during the summer,” Paul said. “I actually called Shai and asked him to let me know when he was working out. So I went and worked out with him and his trainer… So then when we got to the season, I just saw that he’s as competitive as I am, so we do shooting drills, we do rebounding drills.”"

Candace Parker passed along a message from SGA:

"“He was talking major noise, just FYI, I’m not trying to start a rift or anything, but…”"

And Paul jabbed back, jokingly:

"“I think the biggest thing I’ve been trying to teach Shai is how to play defense.”"

Paul, the NBA Players Association President, has been extremely busy during the NBA suspension, meeting frequently with the league and the players union to discuss next steps and help players through such a trepidatious period.

His mature, veteran presence is felt throughout the league, but perhaps nowhere more than in OKC.

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