The Oklahoma City Thunder will have a drastically new look when they take the floor for the 2019-20 season, and one of their new pieces wants to assert that different could be good.
"I am not Russell Westbrook," Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who came to Oklahoma City as part of the trade package that netted the Los Angeles Clippers Paul George, told reporters. "We don't have the same name, the same body type, nothing like that. So I'm going to try to be myself and be the best me, and everything else will take care of itself."
Holding Gilgeous-Alexander to Westbrook's standard wouldn't be fair, seeing as the latter was the face of the franchise for a decade and averaged a triple-double in each of the last three seasons.
Westbrook departed the Thunder in the aftermath of George joining the Clippers. Oklahoma City traded the 2016-17 league MVP to the Houston Rockets, where he'll reunite with former Thunder teammate James Harden.
As a result, Oklahoma City has been thrust into a rebuild. Gilgeous-Alexander doesn't care about the circumstances, though.
"Regardless of the situation, I'm going to continue to work hard and play my game," the 21-year-old point guard said. "I know that eventually it will come out and things like that. I don't worry about starting. I don't worry about accolades or anything like that. I just work hard, keep my head down and be true to who I am."
Chris Paul landed in Oklahoma City in the Westbrook trade, and the 2018 first-round pick noted he's looking forward to being mentored by a nine-time All-Star.
On Wednesday, Brian Windhorst gave new insight into Paul's future in Oklahoma City on ESPN's The Jump (h/t Real GM):
"Here's what executives expect to happen: they expect the Thunder to put out a message that we're not looking to trade Chris Paul...We want him to work with our young guys. Because they don't want anybody to think they're panic-trying to trade him, and they want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul."
When Paul was dealt, the widespread belief was that the Thunder didn't intend to keep him. Should the 34-year-old end up getting moved, Gilgeous-Alexander will have a stronghold at point.
In his rookie season with the Clippers, the Kentucky product played all 82 regular-season games (starting 73) and averaged 10.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals.