Chris Paul said he is "excited" to play for the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded by the Houston Rockets.

Veteran guard Paul was dealt by the Rockets, along with multiple draft picks, to the Thunder as part of the Russell Westbrook trade earlier this month.

A nine-time NBA All-Star, Paul – who briefly played in Oklahoma City at the beginning of his career when the then-New Orleans Hornets were displaced by Hurricane Katrina – addressed the move in an Instagram post on Wednesday.

"So thankful to the city of Houston for all your generosity and kindness toward my family and me these past few years!" Paul wrote. "I'm truly blessed to have amazing fans who continue to support me throughout my career.

"I'm excited to be joining [the Thunder] next season and for this new opportunity to compete alongside my Thunder team-mates. I started my NBA career playing in Oklahoma City with the New Orleans Hornets and I look forward to returning!"

Oklahoma City were reportedly looking to flip Paul and had some initial discussions with the Miami Heat, but no deal materialised, and he is expected to begin the season with the team.

"Getting a player of Chris' calibre gives us another experienced playmaker and leader, while the additional draft picks continue to allow us to further commit to the long-term vision that we are embarking on for the Thunder," general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. 

"We welcome Chris back to Oklahoma City where as a member of the Hornets he helped to pave the way for the Thunder's arrival in OKC."

The Thunder are expected to enter a major rebuild after moving Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant in July.

James Harden insists there is no bad blood between him and Chris Paul.

The Houston Rockets star was rumoured to have had enough of Paul following their second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in May.

Some reports stated Harden would not answer Paul's phone calls after last season and claimed the duo's relationship was "unsalvageable."

Paul has since been traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Russell Westbrook coming the other way in a blockbuster deal.

However, Harden told reporters on Saturday that speculation of friction between him and Paul was not accurate.

"It was a lot of false talk," Harden said. "Obviously as team-mates, as competitors we argue on the court. You have your disagreements on the court. Your arguments on the court. But that's just part of basketball. Everybody has that. No matter what level of basketball you're in.

"All the negative media stuff and all the stuff that was running, it wasn't true. Me and Chris had constant communication and you know, we're good."

With Paul now out of the picture, Harden is set for a reunion with Westbrook, who he played alongside in Oklahoma City from 2009-12 before being traded to the Rockets.

Harden led the NBA in scoring with 36.1 points per game while Westbrook averaged a triple-double for a third straight year in 2018-19.

"I'm excited for this opportunity," Harden said. "It's a new chapter, but I know he's [Westbrook] excited."

 

James Harden says he will not need to make any changes for new team-mate Russell Westbrook when the pair are reunited at the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets completed a blockbuster trade for Westbrook this week, giving the Rockets two of the last three NBA MVPs on their roster.

Harden played with the new arrival at the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2009 and 2012 and is already confident about how their rekindled partnership will work out in a loaded Western Conference.

So much so, he insists nothing will need to change in his game to make the Rockets successful after Westbrook's move.

"None. None. None," he told reporters at an Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event when asked what adjustments would be needed.

"We played with each other in the NBA and the Olympics and all that. When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. 

"You figure things out throughout the course of the season. That's just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.

"It's that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. With the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in, and things are going to go."

Chris Paul, whose relationship with Harden reportedly soured last season, two protected first-round draft selections and two pick swaps were sent to the Thunder to secure Westbrook's arrival.

"I'm excited for this opportunity," added Harden. "It's a new chapter, but I know he's excited. 

"He's been in Oklahoma City for 11 years so it's a new chapter for him. We welcome him with open arms. It's going to work.

"That's my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old. Obviously, we were team-mates for years. Now, we're at different stages of our careers. I hear a lot of negative things, 'You can't, he can't, they can't'. But we'll figure it out."

The Rockets lost out in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs last season, having gone 53-29 to claim the fourth seed in the West.

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Russell Westbrook is the "most important player" in the NBA team's history following his trade to the Houston Rockets.

On Tuesday, the Thunder announced they had finalised the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul.

Westbrook, who spent his first 11 seasons with the franchise, will "always remain part of the Thunder family", Presti said.

"Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder," Presti said in a statement.

"He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. 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."

Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder sent away this offseason. They moved Paul George — who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19 — to the Los Angeles Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

The Thunder then dealt forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for another first-round pick.

"We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future," Presti said. "Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. 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."

The deal reunites Westbrook with James Harden in Houston. The pair played together with the Thunder from 2009-12.

The Thunder could look to trade veteran guard Paul again before the start of 2019-20.

Rockets star James Harden expects to have "a lot of fun" alongside Russell Westbrook in Houston.

The Rockets acquired the 2017 NBA MVP from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday in exchange for Chris Paul, protected first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026, and the rights to swap picks in two other drafts.

Harden, who played his first three NBA seasons in Oklahoma City with Westbrook, is pleased to be reunited with his old team-mate.

"When I left OKC I was sad," Harden said on Friday, via The Athletic.

"Then Houston made a home for me. Rockets is my home. And now an opportunity came available where Russ wasn't happy. Now we're back. It's going to be a lot of fun this year, I guarantee you that."

According to the Houston Chronicle, Harden and Westbrook "strongly favoured the move and a chance to play in a backcourt together".

Now, it is up to head coach Mike D'Antoni to build the offense around the two NBA MVPs, an award Harden won in 2018.

Trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook makes the Houston Rockets a better team, says franchise owner Tilman Fertitta.

According to ESPN, the Rockets have sent Chris Paul and two protected first-rounders in 2024 and 2026 to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2017 NBA MVP. They have also agreed to swap draft picks in 2021 and 2025.

Eight-time All-Star Westbrook, who has averaged a triple-double in each of the past three seasons, sought an exit from the Thunder after they traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Westbrook and Harden helped Oklahoma City reach the 2012 NBA Finals and Fertitta is relishing watching their reunion unfold.

"We're excited to have Russell Westbrook," Fertitta told Fox 26 in Houston.

"I would watch him play for Oklahoma City, and he's so athletic. At the same time this franchise just had the two years with the most wins it's ever had in consecutive years, and we wouldn't have accomplished that without Chris Paul.

"I said at the end of the year we're never gonna stand pat. We're always gonna try to get better. I think this makes us a better team. I hate to lose Chris Paul, but we felt like we did what we had to do to become a better team.

"I think it'll be very interesting and fun. James and Russell wanted to play together. It ought to be fun this year."

It has been suggested the Thunder could immediately look to move Paul on, with the Miami Heat, who were believed to be in the running to get Westbrook, touted as a potential destination.

Trading Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook makes the Houston Rockets a better team, says franchise owner Tilman Fertitta.

According to ESPN, the Rockets have sent Chris Paul and two protected first-rounders in 2024 and 2026 to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2017 NBA MVP. They have also agreed to swap draft picks in 2021 and 2025.

Eight-time All-Star Westbrook, who has averaged a triple-double in each of the past three seasons, sought an exit from the Thunder after they traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Westbrook and Harden helped Oklahoma City reach the 2012 NBA Finals and Fertitta is relishing watching their reunion unfold.

"We're excited to have Russell Westbrook," Fertitta told Fox 26 in Houston.

"I would watch him play for Oklahoma City, and he's so athletic. At the same time this franchise just had the two years with the most wins it's ever had in consecutive years, and we wouldn't have accomplished that without Chris Paul.

"I said at the end of the year we're never gonna stand pat. We're always gonna try to get better. I think this makes us a better team. I hate to lose Chris Paul, but we felt like we did what we had to do to become a better team.

"I think it'll be very interesting and fun. James and Russell wanted to play together. It ought to be fun this year."

It has been suggested the Thunder could immediately look to move Paul on, with the Miami Heat, who were believed to be in the running to get Westbrook, touted as a potential destination.

Chris Paul is reportedly a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. But, there is a chance he is with another organisation at some point in the near future.

Oklahoma City acquired the 34-year-old guard, along with two first-round selections and two pick swaps, from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook, according to a report from ESPN on Thursday.

Paul is a nine-time NBA All-Star and one of the best point guards to ever play. All that is missing from his resume is a championship, which he undoubtedly wants to be chasing in the twilight of his career. The Thunder may not be the team for him, as they appear set to enter a rebuild after moving not only Westbrook, but Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers) and Jerami Grant (Denver Nuggets).

The Thunder tried to find a third team to move Paul to in the deal, according to ESPN, and his future remains unclear.

The Thunder are likely to consult with Paul to find out "what he wants", according to a separate report from ESPN. Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has already spoken to Paul's agent Leon Rose, that report says.

Oklahoma City completed the deal with the hopes of Paul being part of the team, according to The Athletic.

But, Paul, his agent and Presti will speak again about next steps. The Thunder would have interest in completing a deal with the Miami Heat, if that is what Paul prefers. Paul would be teamed up with Jimmy Butler in Miami, who were also reportedly pursuing Westbrook.  

Paul struggled with injuries and had a down season in 2018-19, but he is still a valuable floor leader and scorer, despite his massive contract (three years, $124.1million).

He has a chance to help mentor the Thunder's new, young core — including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — or he could become a contributor elsewhere, on a team with more of a chance to win a title.

The Oklahoma City Thunder roster underwent a complete overhaul in less than a week.

Oklahoma City completed their third major trade when they sent Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for two future first-round selections, two pick swaps and Chris Paul, according to the ESPN on Thursday.

Westbrook was the second top-level player the Thunder dealt away this offseason. They moved Paul George — who finished third in the MVP voting in 2018-19 — to the Los Angeles Clippers and received five first-round selections, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in return.

The Thunder then sent forward Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for another first-round pick.

In the blink of an eye, the Thunder went from a team that seemed to have championship aspirations to a franchise entering a rebuild. Oklahoma City finished with a 49-33 record last season, had two stars on their roster long term and some solid surrounding talent around them, including Grant, Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder.

George, however, forced the Thunder's hand after he reportedly asked to be dealt in hopes of teaming up with Kawhi Leonard and the pair ended up together in Los Angeles.

After that trade, the Thunder needed to move in a different direction and they did quite well for themselves.

Oklahoma City acquired eight first-round picks over the last week and they should have the opportunity to draft plenty of young, controllable players to replenish their rotation. The team could also elect to package some of those picks in a deal for a different star, should one become available.

But, that is not all the Thunder added. Gilgeous-Alexander is a promising guard with plenty of upside. He could develop into a more than adequate replacement for Westbrook, with a much better contract.

Gallinari is a reliable three-and-D player on an expiring deal. If the Thunder elect to hold onto him, he will be a consistent contributor. If not, there is a good chance they can flip him for another pick or young player.

Paul, meanwhile, is a nine-time All-Star who still provides value as a scorer and distributor, despite the massive amount of money remaining on his contract (three years, $124.1million). He could still receive interest on the trade market and Oklahoma City could acquire additional assets if they decide to move him again.

Despite losing some of the league's biggest names, Thunder general manager Sam Presti has set his team up to be competitive in the future.

The Houston Rockets have acquired star guard Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to reports.

In an ESPN report, the Rockets have sent Chris Paul and first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 for the 2017 NBA MVP.

The teams have also swapped picks in 2021 and 2025 as Westbrook reunites with former Thunder team-mate and 2018 MVP James Harden.

After Paul George left the Thunder for the Los Angeles Clippers, eight-time All-Star Westbrook wanted to be sent to the Rockets.

Westbrook and Harden played together in Oklahoma City from 2009 to 2012 – the pair helping the Thunder reach the 2012 NBA Finals.

Last season, Westbrook averaged 22.9 points, 10.7 assists and 11.1 rebounds as the Thunder advanced to the playoffs before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

The NBA is going to look quite different in 2019-20.

After leading the Toronto Raptors to their first title, Kawhi Leonard will reportedly team up with Paul George at the Los Angeles Clippers next season.

It is a move that will reignite the rivalry with a much-changed Los Angeles Lakers, while the Golden State Warriors have seen Kevin Durant jump ship and move to the Eastern Conference.

We look at the teams with a 'big two' following a series of movements in an incredible offseason.

 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

It was a big surprise when the Clippers took defending champions the Warriors to Game 6 in the playoffs, but they will undoubtedly be a better team next season.

The additions of Leonard and six-time All-Star George – although the latter came at a high price that included sending Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and five first-round draft picks, four of which are unprotected, and two pick swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder – have created a new force in the Western Conference that will be looking to contend straight away.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Despite finally pulling off the acquisition of Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers freed up enough cap space for a run at Leonard.

However, they were unable to seal a deal with the NBA Finals MVP and will instead look to improve on LeBron James' disappointing first season by forming a truly formidable duo with Davis.

BROOKLYN NETS

Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but it did not lead to a reduction in interest in the Warriors star.

The 2014 MVP decided to end his time at Golden State and team up with Kyrie Irving at the Brooklyn Nets, who consequently captured two of the three biggest free agents on the market to step up their rebuild several notches.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

It looked as though the Warriors would dominate again when they signed DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal in the last offseason, despite the center being sidelined by an Achilles injury.

Cousins has not returned and with Durant out the door, Golden State will be relying on the backcourt tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – reportedly on a five-year max contract – though trading for D'Angelo Russell could lighten the load.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Having lost out to the Miami Heat in their reported pursuit of Jimmy Butler, the Rockets will go again with James Harden and Chris Paul leading the charge.

General manager Daryl Morey rejected reports of a rift between Harden and Paul, though he will be keen for the team to start winning as early as possible following a sluggish start in 2018-19.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

The Blazers made a stunning run to the Western Conference Finals before being swept by the Warriors.

They will hope to go one better after tying Damian Lillard down to a four-year contract extension in the offseason, ensuring his partnership with fellow sharpshooter CJ McCollum will continue.

Chris Paul does not want to leave the Houston Rockets.

During a recent meeting with reporters, the 34-year-old guard addressed a report that said he asked the Rockets to move him because his relationship with star James Harden is "unsalvageable".

"I never asked for a trade," Paul said on Sunday, via the Houston Chronicle.

"I never demanded a trade … I'll be in Houston. I'm happy about that. I'm very happy about that. I'm good."

Paul, who has three years and $125million remaining on his contract, averaged 15.6 points, 8.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds in 58 games for the Rockets last season.

He shot 41.9 per cent from the field and 35.8 per cent from three-point range.

The Rockets finished with a 53-29 record but fell to the Golden State Warriors in six games in the Western Conference semi-finals. Golden State have eliminated Houston from the playoffs in two straight years.

"There's only one team that wins at the end of the year, you know what I mean?" Paul said. "Since I went to Houston, from day one, it's been about winning games. It's always about winning games."

Austin Rivers also called the reported rift between Paul and Harden "fake news" while general manager Daryl Morey forcefully denied that there was a trade request.

The Rockets will reportedly pursue Jimmy Butler this offseason and have also discussed dealing center Clint Capela to the Boston Celtics. Rivers will be a free agent.

Houston Rockets star Chris Paul will be on the floor for Game 2 against NBA champions the Golden State Warriors after avoiding suspension.

Paul received a second technical foul and was ejected with less than five seconds remaining in Sunday's 104-100 loss to the Warriors in their Western Conference semi-final opener.

The Rockets guard - who finished with 17 points and four assists at Oracle Arena - appeared to bump into a referee during the exchange, which could have led to a suspension.

Paul was disciplined on Monday as the NBA announced a $35,000 fine for "aggressively confronting and recklessly making contact with a game official", without a ban.

"A lot of things need to be improved," Paul told reporters after the loss. "We can do better on our switches, rebounding, too. We definitely have to rebound better. 

"And we've got to execute and understand that they got shooters, so we've got to try to force the other guys to shoot more shots."

Both teams were unhappy with the officiating throughout the game. Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters the referees admitted they missed multiple calls in the first half that would have sent James Harden to the free-throw line.

"I mean the response was they came in at half-time and said they missed them," D'Antoni said. "That's what they told me. They missed four of them. That's 12 foul shots. So be it. They're trying to do the best they can do. And obviously it was what it was."

Harden tallied 35 points on just nine-of-28 shooting as Houston went down in the opening game.

"I mean, I just want a fair chance, man," Harden told reporters. "Call the game how it's supposed to be called and that's it. And I'll live with the results. Just call the game the way it's supposed to be called and we'll live with the results. It's plain and simple."

Defending NBA champions the Golden State Warriors overcame the Houston Rockets in their Western Conference semi-final opener, while the Boston Celtics upstaged the Milwaukee Bucks.

Kevin Durant continued his strong NBA playoff form on Sunday, scoring 35 points to lead the Warriors to a 104-100 victory against the Rockets in Game 1.

The 10-time All-Star, who averaged 35 points per game in the Warriors' first-round series win against the Los Angeles Clippers, hit 11-of-25 shots against Houston.

On a day when Stephen Curry (18 points) battled foul trouble and Klay Thompson had a quiet 13 points, Golden State needed all Durant could offer. Yet the game was not decided until the final seconds.

With the Rockets trailing by three points with 10 seconds remaining, James Harden launched an errant three-point attempt. Chris Paul grabbed the rebound, but had the ball stripped away. Eric Gordon recovered the ball out of bounds.

But Paul, arguing with an official that he had been fouled on the play, was called for a technical. Curry hit the free throw for the final margin.

In Sunday's first game, the Celtics shut down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks for a 112-90 triumph in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-final.

The Celtics frustrated Antetokounmpo, limiting him to seven-of-21 shooting, as Boston drew first blood in Milwaukee.

Nothing came easy for Antetokounmpo, who scored 22 but had a game-low minus-24.

On the offensive end, the Bucks had no answer for Kyrie Irving, who scored 26 points and added 11 assists. Horford posted 20 and Jaylen Brown pitched in 19.

 

Gordon, Green impress

Rockets guard Gordon scored 27 on 10-of-19 shooting for the Rockets.

Draymond Green missed only two of nine shots, scored 14 and had nine rebounds and assists.

 

Harden inefficient

Harden scored 35, but hit only nine-of-27 shots from the field, and four-of-16 three-pointers.

Bucks guard Pat Connaughton made only two-of-10 shots and one of his seven three-point attempts.

 

Horford denies Giannis… twice!

You do not see Antetokounmpo get rejected very often — let alone twice on the same play by Horford.

 

76ers at Raptors

The Toronto Raptors won Game 1 rather easily, but recall that the Philadelphia 76ers had an uninspiring performance in their Eastern Conference first-round series opener against the Brooklyn Nets. Kawhi Leonard scored a career playoff-high 45 points on Saturday, and the 76ers certainly can do a better job than that on the defensive end. 

It is the NBA playoff series everyone has been waiting for.

The Western Conference semi-final matchup between reigning champions the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets promises to be one of the best of the postseason.

Both teams are considered contenders to take home the championship and feature star players throughout their line-ups.

Golden State and Houston met in the Western Conference finals last season. The Rockets held a 3-2 lead before Chris Paul suffered a hamstring injury and missed the rest of the series. The Warriors won the final two games and went on to capture their second straight championship.

"Well, I thought we had a great crack last year, so I don't know — we'll see," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told The Athletic last month. "I'm confident, as I was when we were 11-14, that we'll give them a run. … Now they might beat us. They're the best team. They're the champs right now. They've proven it, and they've got nothing to prove."

Here are three things that could decide the series this time around:

 

Capela's ability to stay on the floor

Clint Capela can be a game changer for the Rockets.

The 6-10 center is a strong rebounder and finisher around the basket. He can also protect the rim, as he averaged 1.5 blocks this season.

The Warriors do not have any true center who could match up with Capela. However, they can counter with their "death line-up", which features Draymond Green at the pivot. That group can switch at almost every position and plays fast.

The small line-up could give Capela problems, which could force him to the bench if the Rockets decide to answer with one of their own.

But, if Capela finds a way to stay on the floor and keep up with Green, he has a chance to be a difference maker for Houston.

 

Warriors' fatigue level

The Rockets easily took care of the Utah Jazz in five games in their opening series. The Warriors, on the other hand, surprisingly struggled at times against the Los Angeles Clippers before eventually moving on to round two.

That means Houston have had extra time to rest, recover and prepare to face the two-time defending champions, while Golden State have had to expend more energy than they are accustomed to in the first round.

The Warriors have the more talented roster, but there is a chance fatigue could slow them down and play a role in this series.

 

Rockets' role players

The players surrounding Rockets stars James Harden, Paul and Capela have changed since the last time these teams met in the playoffs.

Houston have added guard Austin Rivers, wing Danuel House Jr. and forward Kenneth Faried since last season. They will need those role players, along with PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon, to contribute on both ends of the floor if the Rockets want to win the series.

The Warriors have multiple dynamic stars, which makes them difficult to match up with. But, the Rockets should have the versatility to slow them down.

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