Thunder Draft Picks Introduced To The Public

They raised their jerseys, smiled, posed for pictures, received a nice applause and spoke about what it felt like to have a lifelong dream come to fruition.

The newest members of the Thunder, guards James Harden and Robert Vaden and center B.J. Mullens, were introduced by general manager Sam Presti and head coach Scott Brooks at a press conference on Saturday inside a MidFirst Banking Center on Western Ave., the first of 12 stops for the Thunder Summer Caravan.

Harden, out of Arizona State, will wear No. 13; the 7-1 center Mullens, a product of Ohio State, will don No. 23; and Vaden, a shooting guard from UAB, has No. 30.

Presti spoke about his expectations for the trio and of the high character that each one of them brings to the organization. That was best exemplified by the presence of guard Kyle Weaver, forwards Jeff Green and D.J. White and center Serge Ibaka, all of who were on hand to lend their support.

“Our expectations for these three players are the same,” Presti said. “One, work hard. We expect that. It’s part of being a member of the organization. We expect them to be great citizens, great assets to the community. They would not be sitting here if that was the case. We’re confident in that. And to be great teammates. I think that is embodied by what you’re seeing over on the side of the stage.”

Harden’s mother, sister, brother and agent were present, while Mullens brought two close friends. Vaden, meanwhile, was college roommates with White at Indiana before transferring.

The trio arrived in Oklahoma City on Friday evening and had brunch on Saturday with the basketball operations staff.

For Harden, the grind of the last 60 days, which included workouts, interviews and countless hours of training, was his biggest obstacle.

“This is a great moment,” he said. “You work so hard and put in the extra time to get to this point. So many people wish they were in this position. This feels great to finally be here and now the journey begins.”

Ditto for Mullens and Vaden, who both worked out in Las Vegas for the last two months in preparation for the draft.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time to be standing up here holding this jersey,” Mullens said. “It’s a dream come true.”

Said Vaden: “It’s a dream come true just to be here in Oklahoma City and to get things rolling. I’m really excited to be here.” Presti also spoke about the qualities in each player that fits the team’s mold.

Presti said that acquiring Harden was a big step for the organization, and how aside from his skills and physical gifts, his approach and mindset fits well with what the Thunder wants to accomplish. Harden is a team-first guy.

“Just to go in and work hard, try to earn some minutes,” Harden said. “It’d be wrong to say that I’m coming here to average 20 points or whatever the case may be. I think they have a great group of guys here already.”

Mullens’ athleticism and size was a major attraction, but Presti also spoke about how the center’s perseverance to this point in his life will help him continue to grow. Draft experts had Mullens pegged all over the first round.

“It doesn’t matter where you end up in the draft,” Mullens said, “but what you’re going to do when you get there.”

And Presti described Vaden as a self-made player who has an incredible focus on and off the court.

“I just want to come in here and work hard and do whatever the coaches need us to do,” Vaden said.

Brooks, meanwhile, was pleased with the new additions.

“We’re very excited about all three of our guys,” Brooks said. “One of the things that we value is high character guys, and all three are that. they’re hard working guys and they’re going to add to our team. We’re a team getting better.”

After the Harden, Mullens and Vaden met with the media, they slipped into practice gear and headed outside to run some basketball drills for a group of children on the Thunder Sport Court. There were also interactive games, contests, giveaways, complimentary hot dogs and Coca Cola products and appearances by Thunder color analyst Grant Long, Rumble the Bison, the Thunder Girls and The Rolling Thunder Book Bus.

Contact Chris Silva