Thunder GM: ‘Russell Westbrook is the Most Important Player’ in Franchise History

by July 17, 2019

The Oklahoma City Thunder officially announced the Russell Westbrook trade Tuesday, with general manager Sam Presti calling him “the most important player in the brief history” of the franchise.

Westbrook, 30, was dealt to the Houston Rockets after 11 memorable seasons in exchange for Chris Paul, two first-round draft picks (2024 and 2026) and two pick swaps (2021 and 2025.)

Presti says the team worked with the Westbrook camp to ensure he landed on an NBA title contender.

Per The Oklahoman:

“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,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a team release. 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.”

In his statement, Presti confirmed that before trading Westbrook, he spoke with the franchise star and his agent about his and the team’s futures.

“Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him,” Presti said. “As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this. 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.”

Westbrook leaves OKC as the all-time Thunder leader in scoring (18,859), assists (6,897), rebounds (5,760) and steals (1,442). The eight-time All-Star and 2017 NBA MVP led his team to nine playoff appearances.

“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,” Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett said in a team release. “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.”

Related Report: Russell Westbrook Began ‘Quietly Grumbling’ After First Round Exit