Surprise No. 1: That so many media members massed at Cain’s Ballroom for Thursday night’s stand-up comedy show presented by Russell Westbrook.
At least 20 reporters were there. Maybe 30. NBA TV was represented.
Surprise No. 2: That so many people attended the event. The venerable ballroom was sold out.
And No. 3: During what became one of the more eventful evenings of his basketball life, Westbrook didn’t talk.
Well, he did talk a little, but only onstage as he welcomed the audience and with brief remarks at the end of the show.
When the media arrived at the venue, Westbrook was an 11-season veteran of the Oklahoma City Thunder backcourt. A few minutes later, there were notifications that he soon will be a former Thunder guard.
There was a report that Westbrook had been dealt to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026, and an option to swap picks in 2021 and 2025.
It seems highly improbable that the 34-year-old Paul, because of his age and unwieldy contract, will actually play for the rebuilding Thunder. The first two seasons of Paul’s career were played in Oklahoma City (for the Hornets).
From the Los Angeles Clippers last week, the Thunder gave up Paul George in exchange for five first-round picks. As Sam Presti determines how the Thunder’s next chapter might look, OKC’s general manager can bundle the Rockets and Clippers picks and position the organization for myriad options.
When the Westbrook story broke, the energy in Cain’s Ballroom tripled.
Westbrook is in Tulsa for a comedy show: That’s interesting.
Westbrook is traded to the Rockets while in Tulsa for a comedy show: That’s historic.
As stand-up comedians and event sponsors were made available for media questions, reporters were assured that Westbrook was backstage at Cain’s and eventually would take a few questions.
Even the stand-up comics were asked for their reaction to the Westbrook trade. This was classic chaos.
Westbrook’s media moment was scheduled for 8:20.
At 8:30, someone announced, “Here he comes!”
At 8:34, one of the event’s publicity people approached reporters and started to speak. The background music was at a fairly high volume, so I leaned in to better hear what she was attempting to convey. I heard two words: “No questions.”
The Man of the Hour would not talk with reporters. We were surprised because we’d been told that it would happen. In the sense, however, that he has a disdain for media Q&A sessions, it shouldn’t have been surprising at all.
I thought he might make an exception Thursday night.
Even if he didn’t want to discuss the details of the trade, I thought Westbrook might have something to say to Thunder fans. I thought he might reflect on 11 mostly great years with the Thunder. I thought he might discuss having spent more than one-third of his life in Oklahoma.
During the second half of the 2018-19 season, it became nationally known that Westbrook refused to answer any question from Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel. Berry could ask the best question ever, and Westbrook’s response was a consistent “next question.”
In Tulsa, as it was reported that the most important of all Thunder figures is headed to Houston and a reunion with former OKC teammate James Harden, Westbrook took it to the next level.
There was no “next question.” There were no questions at all.
Eventually, on his terms, there will be a Westbrook news conference and he will actually say goodbye. It just would have been a stand-up thing to do on Thursday — to take questions and address Thunder fans as they attempted to process his departure.