Westbrook, Presti Thrilled About Extension
Those who were hoping the Oklahoma City Thunder would extend Russell Westbrook’s contract prior to next weeks’ deadline received good news today. Very good news in fact; it was just announced that he signed a multi-year deal with the Thunder.
Per team policy the exact details were not released, but according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the parties agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract extension.
Thunder General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti released the following statement, in part, earlier today: “We are thrilled to solidify Russell’s future with the Thunder. Since we arrived in Oklahoma City, Russell’s work ethic, persistence, character, and involvement in our community have helped us establish the standards that we are committed to on a day-to-day basis. He is a valued member of our organization and we look forward to his continued contributions on and off the floor.”
Presti pointed out that “in three-plus seasons as a member of the Thunder, Westbrook has appeared in 261 games (244 starts) and registered averages of 17.9 points, 7.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 33.8 minutes per contest. During the 2010-11 season Westbrook received his first-career All-Star nomination before helping lead the Thunder to a spot in the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.”
This afternoon Presti and Westbrook appeared on a local sports talk radio show, “The Sports Animal”, to speak about the extension. Presti made it crystal clear the organization is over the moon to have secured this deal for Westbrook.
“It’s a big day for the organization,” Presti said. “Russell is somebody that we think very, very highly of. We understand what it is that he’s done for our team and will continue to do for our team. Anytime you can keep people like that in your program, I think it’s important.”
“We’re thrilled that this is where he wanted to be,” he added. “He made that clear to us as we started having these conversations that Oklahoma City was the place he wanted to play. We’re fortunate we could work it out.”
“Very, very excited,” said Westbrook about his contract extension. “It’s a wonderful time in my life right now. I love Oklahoma City, the fans, my teammates and everything about it. I was really looking forward to staying here and just continue my journey in Oklahoma City. I started here and I’d like to keep it going. That was my main focus…trying to stay back in Oklahoma.”
“The deal wasn’t just for me; it was for the city, for my family, for my teammates (and) to let everybody know that we’re here for the long haul. We’re trying to make big, big things happen.”
With this extension, hopefully the widespread speculation about any damaging rifts between Kevin Durant and Westbrook has been silenced. Westbrook addressed that situation as well.
“Me and Kevin are great friends,” he said. “He’s one of the best guys I’ve known since I’ve been here. (We) will continue to have a great relationship. All it does is just bring me and him closer.
“It definitely was blown out of proportion,” Westbrook added about the recent sideline disagreement involving the two stars.
Westbrook’s extension, believed to have no opt-out clause, will take effect next season and continue through 2016-17. With Durant locked up through the 2015-16 season, the Thunder have their cornerstone players set. Obviously this means Oklahoma City has several years to make championship runs with this duo.
Of paramount importance was keeping the two 23-year-old stars with an eye on being able to extend Serge Ibaka and James Harden, perhaps Eric Maynor as well; all three are eligible for extensions this summer. Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collision are under contract through 2014-15, Daequan Cook’s new contract is effective through 2012-13 and Thabo Sefolosha’s deal goes through 2013-14.
Since Westbrook did not demand dollars he could well receive under the new Derrick Rose Rule, Presti should have sufficient cap space to construct new contracts for Ibaka and Harden. He took the max deal equal to 25% of the Thunder’s annual salary cap, not the 30% “supermax” deal (which would require he makes the All-Star team again this year…who doubts that?).
Giving up that five percent is likely critical in ensuring the other core players stay. It was an unselfish move on Westbrook’s part and speaks volumes to his commitment to this team.
Everyone knows cap space flexibility is Presti’s middle name, and that his mantra is to build a team that can grow together and stay together.
With the announcement today, the Thunder is on their way.