“Just to see our faces I think kind of gave him (McHale) some kind of joy … basically our entire organization was there just to support him. No matter if it was for five minutes or three minutes, he just wanted to see our faces. I'm glad we got that opportunity to go out there and share that moment with him.”
Former Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson has filled in for coach McHale. How has he done?
“He's done a great job. It's not easy to come in and try to take over a team right away like he did, but he's done a phenomenal job and keeping us focused on what we need to do to win games.”
What kind of crowd reaction do you think you'll get?
“I'm not sure. Hopefully, I'll get some claps and hopefully I'll see some beards in the crowd as well. They were tremendous. They were unbelievable. I love them. They were really supportive of me and the Thunder.”
Do you expect them to boo you when you get the ball and it's not your arena?
“No, they're not like that. I don't think they will. They're some great fans.”
As far as your contract talks, in the end, was it about the money?
“No. I mean, obviously it was partly about the money. I was put in a tough situation where things didn't happen the way I wanted them to. It's in the past. I'm in my situation now and all I can do is focus on what I need to do to be a better leader and a better basketball player.”
Would you have said things differently about “making a sacrifice” to stay with the Thunder leading up to the trade?
“No, because I thought I did sacrifice. I thought I sacrificed coming off the bench. I could have tried to be a starter and messed the whole thing up, but I sacrificed and came off the bench for the better of the team. There were a lot of different things I thought I sacrificed to make the Thunder better.”
What's it like being s starter?
“It's different. I'm 14 games in and I'm kind of getting used to it. I'm having a lot more opportunities with the basketball in my hands. At first it was kind of weird not having those (Thunder) guys on the court with you. I've got some great guys (in Houston) who want to play hard and win some basketball games.”
Will you try to keep your emotions in check tonight?
“Just going to go out there and play basketball. I feel like it's a road game we're going to try to win. This game doesn't count for any more wins or losses.”
When was the last time you played the villain role? Do you have to go back to college (at Arizona State)?
“[Smiling] I don't think I've ever been in that role. I'm not used to this situation.”
Are you at peace the way the trade transpired?
“It happened very quick. … One minute I'm at dinner (at Cheesecake Factory) with my family. The next I'm headed to Houston.”