Minutes after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news about the trade, Westbook took the stage to a standing ovation at a comedy show at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa.
Westbook had been scheduled to talk to reporters at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time — roughly 10 minutes before Wojnarowski tweeted about the trade. Instead, Westbrook skipped the interview session and took the stage, where he introduced Demetrius Deason, a childhood friend who was co-hosting the event with Westbrook.
The timing of the news brought a surreal feel to the event, where Westbrook was all smiles on stage.
Westbrook came back on stage at the end of the evening and thanked the fans for their support, then posed for pictures with fans afterward.
With the Thunder in rebuilding mode following the Paul George trade last weekend, Westbrook had been rumored to be on the trading block over the past week. But most of the reporting suggested Westbrook was headed to Miami. Instead, he’ll head to Houston, where he’ll reunite with former teammate James Harden to form one of the most explosive backcourts in recent NBA history.
Two sources close to Westbrook told me that Westbrook and his camp had known for the past four days that he was heading to Houston.
Demetrius “Juice” Deason, Westbrook’s best friend, told me that the timing of the news couldn’t have been better.
“It’s dope,” he said. “If I could have picked that we dropped the news on any day, I think it would have been tonight. I think that’s what I would have wanted. The comedy gods were on my side tonight.”
I asked Deason what he’d pick as the title for the show given Westbrook’s departure.
“Farewell Oklahoma,” he said with a smile.
Russell Westbrook Dominated in OKC for 11 Seasons
Fans in Oklahoma are fond of Westbrook for good reason: He was on the inaugural Thunder team in 2008-09 after the team moved to OKC from Seattle. He made an immediate impact as a rookie, then proceeded to become one of the most dominant players in the league — and eventually the face of the OKC franchise.
After spending eight seasons partially in the shadow of Kevin Durant, Westbrook delivered three of the most dominant seasons in NBA history, averaging a triple double each year from 2016-17 through 2018-19 and winning the MVP award in 2017 along with his second scoring title.