TULSA — Chris Paul, the president of the NBA’s players’ association, said he isn’t very well informed about the league’s growing friction with its business partners in China in part because of his focus on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s training camp.
“I don’t know but so much about it right now,” Paul said of the situation, which began with a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. “I’ll try to find out what’s going on.”
Paul is encouraged by the early work of the revamped Thunder, who opened their preseason Tuesday with a 119-104 win over the Dallas Mavericks, who opted to sit young stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis on the first night of a back-to-back.
Paul, acquired from the Rockets along with first-round picks for longtime Thunder star Russell Westbrook, was joined by a pair of other point guards in Oklahoma City’s starting lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the centerpiece of the package the LA Clippers sent to the Thunder in the Paul George deal, and Dennis Schroder played alongside Paul as Oklahoma City emphasized ball movement.
The Thunder scored 66 points on 63.4% shooting in the first half, assisting on 15 of 26 baskets, beginning with Paul’s feed to center Steven Adams for a surprising corner 3-pointer on the opening possession.
“The spirit was right and the ball was moving,” said Paul, who had six points, three rebounds, four assists and five turnovers in 17 minutes before sitting out the second half. “When you practice like that, you always wonder if it’s going to translate to the game. For us tonight, it did.”
Gilgeous-Alexander, a 21-year-old with star potential, dazzled in his Thunder debut with 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Schroder, Oklahoma City’s sixth man last season, had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and dished out five assists.
“We all have talent in that we can create for each other,” Paul said. “It just makes the game easier for you when you have multiple guys that can handle the ball.”
Thunder coach Billy Donovan didn’t commit to starting the three point guards together on a regular basis, but he liked the look of the lineup.
“All three of those guys are really important and they’re drivers of our offense because they’re smart, they have a really good feel of how to play and they’re unselfish,” Donovan said. “They’ve got to be the catalyst to moving the basketball. Putting them out there, my feeling was to get them comfortable playing with one another, get them playing with a good pace and tempo and speed, and I thought we came out to start the game playing like that.”