Russell Westbrook celebrated Kevin Durant’s birthday on Friday by signing the five-year, $205 million contract extension that had been on the table for months. As they say, timing is everything.
It’s also quite a feat to sign the richest contract in the history of the sport and still get praised for a magnanimous gesture. That’s because Westbrook played this one beautifully, starting with originally adding a year to his contract last summer just days after Durant abruptly left Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors.
Westbrook then went out and put together a historic season, averaging a triple-double en route to winning league MVP. Then he waited for OKC general manager Sam Presti to upgrade the roster and only after Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were acquired in trades did Westbrook make the commitment to spend the prime of his career in OKC.
This is huge for the Thunder, the NBA, small market franchises and of course Westbrook’s bank account.
Think of the alternative. If Westbrook hadn’t signed the extension by Oct. 16, the Thunder enters the regular season knowing that come July 1st Westbrook, George and Anthony could leave via free agency. Those who know Presti say he would never allow that to happen and at some point he would have traded the All-Star point guard.
Having lost Durant to free agency 14 months earlier, OKC could not afford to lose a top-five player again for nothing. And think of what losing Westbrook would mean for Oklahoma City and small markets everywhere.
When teams like the Thunder can’t retain their own players what hope do they have for the future? Presti erred badly by trading James Harden but the Thunder front office can’t be blamed for Durant leaving a championship contender to join the 73-win Warriors.
If Westbrook had rejected a massive contract and taken less to return home and sign with the Los Angeles Lakers next summer that would have been great for Magic Johnson but bad for Adam Silver and bad for the competitive balance in the NBA.
(Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Westbrook’s deal may or may not convince George to re-sign and there is no telling if Carmelo will opt out of his contract. (He’d be crazy to do so.) But Oklahoma City has a superstar point guard in a point guard-driven league to build around.
“When you play in Oklahoma City you play in front of the best fans in the world, I’m looking forward to bringing everything I’ve got, for them, this city and for this organization. WHY NOT?” Westbrook said in a statement.
Durant left to chase a championship in Golden State and he accomplished his mission. Durant may win multiple titles before he’s done. But part of him still struggles with the decision.
He clearly doesn’t like being portrayed as a villain. In a since deleted tweet, Durant responded to criticism by belittling the Thunder organization and head coach Billy Donovan. It is believed that Durant uses a separate alias Twitter account to respond to critics and mistakenly used his own when he criticized Donovan.
Westbrook was once famously quoted as saying “I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks” and those who know him say that’s Westbrook’s mantra. His entourage is his wife, his parents and his brother.
“He takes care of his own bills,” said a person close to Westbrook. “He does things his way. He doesn’t follow the crowd. He’s a unique guy.”
Westbrook is now the guy who will one day have a statue built in downtown OKC. His legacy is secure. He’s staying with a great organization that is committed to winning. He’s a local hero.
And he gets $205 million.
LEBRON ISN’T IDLING
LeBron James called it the best NBA offseason of his life “and I wasn’t a part of it that much. That’s the pretty cool thing.”
Really now? You weren’t “a part of it that much” huh?
Let’s see now: LeBron wanted the Cavs to acquire George from Indiana but with Cleveland on the verge of a potential trade, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert went to LeBron and asked for a commitment beyond this year that LeBron wasn’t willing to give. No deal.
When Kyrie Irving discovered that he was part of the trade for George he decided to trade himself before LeBron did it. Kyrie asked for a trade and was eventually dealt to Boston.
Dwyane Wade then negotiated a buyout with Chicago in order to join LeBron, who for months has been linked to a potential move to the Lakers next summer.
Wasn’t a part of it that much? Nice try.
One week after Carmelo was traded reality is starting to set in. The Knicks, minus Carmelo and Phil Jackson, are a little boring. The Knicks better hope Kristaps Porzingis plays in 75-plus games to keep this season interesting.
Source: Ny Daily News