(via NBA.com)

Just a few months ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder had hopes of winning a Conference Championship behind the leadership of Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

After a simple trade request by George, the franchise quickly changed direction.

Today, their focus is on development as they attempt a rebuild with young talent and future assets — which is why most think their newest acquisition, 9x All-Star Chris Paul, is destined for the chopping block.

But maybe we shouldn’t be so quick in writing him off. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Thunder will play hard-ball with Chris this season and will utilize his experience until a team is willing to trade for his services.

“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 here. We want him as a part of our unit. 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,” Windhorst said.

They will be strategic in their handling of the aging star. What that will look like by February’s trade deadline is anyone’s guess.

The 34-year-old 15.6 points per game for the Rockets last year in just 58 total games played. If nothing else, CP3 can use this stretch as a time to rehab his bruised and experienced body.

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