Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade has big names, but little impact


Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade has big names, but little impact

Insofar as it involves two stars bound for the Hall of Fame and featured on perennial playoff teams, the trade with Russell Westbrook going to Houston and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City is, on paper, of significant magnitude.

As in, wow, quite the blockbuster. The NBA does it again. This league stays ablaze.

But after stripping the veneer of gravity that comes with marquee names, it’s fair to question if there really is much consequence to such a deal, first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. And it’s reasonable to conclude it is not.

Which means, for the Warriors and other Western Conference contenders, the balance of power remains basically where it was before the trade.

Both Paul and Westbrook have given every indication of being past their peaks, even if vanity won’t allow for acceptance.

The Thunder gain in Paul a man whose prime spanned his final four seasons with the New Orleans Hornets (2007-11) and first four with the Los Angeles Clippers (2011-15). High-maintenance and often grouchy, CP3 was, for most of those seasons, the best pure point guard in the NBA.

He also played all 82 games in 2014-15 but has since averaged 63, the totals over the last four seasons declining from 74 to 61 to 58 and 58. He can’t be expected to reverse that trend.

It must be noted, too, that Paul was the “leader” of those talented Clippers teams under Doc Rivers that never advanced beyond the second round -- the worst being the epic collapse in 2015 when they botched a three-games-to-one lead over Houston in the Western Conference semifinals.

Obtaining Paul at this stage of his career is, for OKC, mostly about snagging two more first-round picks (2024 and 2026) at a time when James Harden and Westbrook will be in their mid- and late-30s, if on the Houston roster at all.

The Thunder win the deal because they get those picks while dumping Westbrook, who is owed roughly $170 million over the next four seasons, while Paul is signed for roughly $125 over the next three. Paul will be easier to move, should it come to that, as it probably will.

OKC takes another step toward a rebuild that was initiated a few days ago with the massive haul received in trading Paul George to the Clippers. The Thunder has been a first-round out in the three seasons since Kevin Durant left in 2016 and now the playoffs are out of view.

The Rockets now get to figure out, once again, how to get the most out of two ball-dominant players. The Harden-Paul duo was not a rousing success, and it’s hard to imagine the Harden-Westbrook duo being much more prosperous.

There was a time when Harden and Westbrook were a devastating combination, two basketball outlaws that, along with Kevin Durant, appeared capable of owning the NBA for the next five or six seasons. That core, along with young Serge Ibaka, took the Thunder to the NBA Finals.

That was in 2012, when all three were under 24 and simply not ready for the experience and ruthlessness of the Miami Heat team featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Thunder lost in five and have not been back.

[RELATED: Curry talks KD's departure, Dubs' expectations next season]

The Rockets are hoping Harden-Westbrook will be better than Harden-Paul, and it should be. Westbrook can do more things, more effectively, than Paul. Russ can take over a game, racking up statistics Paul can imagine amassing.

But the needle registering Houston’s chances of winning a championship barely budge with this deal. The Rockets remain a playoff team, as they likely would have been with Paul, with a chance maybe to gain a spot in the seeding.

The one thing we know for sure is that the Rockets will be more fun to watch, for reasons good and bad, than the Thunder. And the front office in OKC won’t mind at all.

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

What frustrated Kevin Durant most about past feud with Draymond Green

Yes, we're still talking about the on-court feud between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green when the two were Warriors teammates last season. Actually, Durant still is talking about it. 

The in-game spat that occurred at the end of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers in November 2018, resulted in Green calling KD a "b--ch." KD appeared to say, "That's why I'm out." 

Durant, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency last offseason, revealed on a recent episode of Showtime's "All the Smoke" podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson that he knew halfway through the 2018-19 season that he was leaving the Warriors

"I knew just about the halfway point through the year," Durant said. "I could feel, you know, the separation between the two. Everybody was just waiting on me to make a decision on free agency -- coaches, to my teammates, to the media -- it's like January and I'm like, 'Yo, I'm just trying to hoop.'"

Durant also went into full detail about what happened between him and Green. Draymond did receive a one-game suspension without pay for his actions, but KD clearly has issues with how Golden state handled the situation.

Here's Durant's in-depth explanation of what transpired (H/T NBC Sports' Dan Feldman). 

That play happened. I was going to grab the rebound. He came and grabbed it. I’m thinking he’s just going to toss it to me, and we’re going to run up court, and I’m going to shoot the shot.

Everybody knew that, and we all figured that would happen. And then when it didn’t, I was kind of shocked. And then I was just, “Whoa, Dray. Let me see that.” Like, “What you doing?” Then he turned it over. And I’m just so confused at that point, because he never, ever did nothing like that before. And everybody on the bench was confused, too. And then when we came back, I just heard him screaming. And I was like, “Hold up.” He’s usually screaming when he comes back to the bench. But what is he saying? Then, he started going off. And I’m just like -- maybe it’s because I was f---ing pissed that he didn’t give me the rock. Because I didn’t say nothing. It was just in my body language. I was just clapping and like, “F--k.”

Then, he started coming off the top with all of that stuff. And I’m just thinking, “Draymond is actually my friend, somebody I can call when I’m going through anything.” Like, “Yo, bro, come through.” Like, “Damn, bro, let’s hang out tonight.” And for him to say that type of s--t to me just threw me for a loop. And I just started isolating myself after that, because I didn’t feel -- they suspended Draymond. But it was just like they had to so it wouldn’t look bad to everybody else. And then nobody talked to me about it or really – we never really came to an agreement. We didn’t voice our opinion -- nobody as a whole -- because it happened in front of the whole team, and nobody really talked about it. It was just swept under the rug. And to me, it was just like, we a family. We’re supposed -- even if he said that, we can move past it. But let’s all talk about it. Let’s just say how we all felt about moment, because that was a huge moment in this whole dynasty. Don’t just sweep it under the rug because we want to win. That’s the reason why we’re not going to win. So, I was just like, “Let’s all talk about this.” It’s not that big of a deal. Just put it out on the table. We can move past it. And when that didn’t happen, I was just like “F--k it. Let me just hoop and worry about myself.”

We all know what Draymond is. It’s fine that you want to do that, that you want to show your emotions and wear them on your sleeve. But when it’s over the line sometimes, let’s just talk about it, so next time you can tone it down just a bit. And I feel like we didn’t have an opportunity to do so. Because we were so focused on just trying to move forward and win. And I get that, too. But if we’re a family ...

We done won two chips together, it’s bigger than -- this some s--t we can sit down and talk about.

Me and him sat down and talked about it, and we kind of, I gave him my piece on it. He told me how he felt on it. But it happened in front of the whole team. So, everybody got to talk about it. We know, s--t, turnovers happen. S--t happens.

That's the most thorough explanation that we have heard of the events during and after the game. What's done is done, though. Durant now plays for Brooklyn, which created a domino effect of the Warriors eventually acquiring Andrew Wiggins from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the NBA trade deadline. 

[RELATED: Durant believes he became Bay Area legend with Warriors]

As KD rehabs from a ruptured Achilles he sustained in the NBA Finals as a member of the Warriors, his Nets are fighting for playoff seeding. On the other side of the country, the Warriors (12-43) have the worst record in the NBA at the All-Star break. 

Next season, however, will look much different for both teams.

Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

Giannis' NBA All-Star Game block on LeBron James had Steph Curry hyped

Here's a sentence I didn't think I would write Sunday: Officiating decisions in the NBA All-Star Game brought out plenty of passion.

Not just for degenerate gamblers, mind you. The NBA's format change, where the winner had to score 24 more points (in honor of Kobe Bryant) in the fourth quarter than the leading score of the third, led to one of the best finishes to an All-Star Game in recent memory. The All-Stars brought it on defense, with Kyle Lowry drawing multiple offensive fouls. The intensity was perhaps best defined by Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding fellow All-Star captain and namesake LeBron James in isolation. 

Antetokounmpo's block on James originally was ruled a goaltend, prompting vehement disagreement from injured Warriors star Steph Curry watching with his wife Ayesha on vacation. Steph's reaction, posted on Ayesha's Instagram story, was catnip for Giannis-to-the-Warriors truthers. 

"Review it!" Curry, who played for Team Giannis in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, shouted. "That's not goaltending!"

Curry hasn't played since breaking his left hand just before Halloween, but the two-time MVP sent Warriors fans into a speculative frenzy when he appeared to say "Let's do it" to Antetokounmpo after the Bucks beat the Dubs at Chase Center last month. Curry insisted he wasn't recruiting another lanky swingman, telling Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes he talked to Antetokounmpo about playing "Player Unknown's Battlegrounds."

Antetokounmpo, in case you haven't heard, can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Teams reportedly already are clearing the decks ahead of his free agency, including the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole wrote last month that the Warriors will be among the Greek superstar's suitors and do all they can to clear enough salary-cap space beforehand. 

[RELATED: Siakam jokes about Raps' anti-Steph defense in All-Star Game]

There are hurdles to clear. The Warriors already have four players (Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins) signed to max contracts, for one. They can't exactly bet on the same salary-cap spike that left enough room to sign Kevin Durant in 2016, either, considering the league's television contracts are a half-decade away from expiring and commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA expects to lose "hundreds of millions" of dollars from China's backlash to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's support of Hong Kong protestors. 

Still, after seeing Sunday's shockingly competitive fourth quarter (this was an All-Star Game, after all), anything is possible in the NBA.