Chicken-Fried News: Rolling thunder 

click to enlarge INGVARD ASHBY
  • Ingvard Ashby

While most of Oklahoma City was sleeping, the shocking news that changed the course of beloved National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise Oklahoma City Thunder blared across notification screens.

Not only was reigning NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard spurning the team with whom he won a title, he was signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and conspired with the Thunder’s Paul George to request a trade to join him. The news broke around 1:30 in the morning local time and reverberated like a fracking earthquake.

Almost a year to the day, Oklahoma City mayor David Holt declared July 7 Paul George Day after the all-star forward signed a four-year extension with the Thunder to the surprise of many around the league, who thought he was destined to play with the Lakers and LeBron James.

As shocking as the news might be — the idea that a player with three years left on his contract can dictate a new destination — it comes with the silver lining of getting one of the great treasure chest of assets in league history. Promising point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari, who can be a high-level starter or flipped for more assets later in the season, and five first-round draft picks plus the option to swap picks with the Clippers in the future, when George and Leonard might not even be on the team anymore.

The Thunder have put on a public face of how difficult it was to trade George, but it has set them up for a rebuild that has a more promising future than another first-round playoff exit for a team in salary cap jail. George’s decision has started a fire sale; athletic forward Jerami Grant was traded to Denver, Russell Westbrook is going to Houston and Steven Adams might not be far behind.

The future is uncertain, and the city is faced with the proposition of supporting a non-playoff team for the first time since its inaugural season in OKC, but we here at Chicken-Fried News have faith in general manager Sam Presti to draft well and use a treasure chest of future assets to acquire more talent in the years to come. Instead of gnashing teeth over playoff position and hoping for a miracle run with an older corps of players, let us all sit back and embrace the rebuild.

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