By Michael Kinney
When Oklahoma City Thunder fans woke up Thursday morning and saw the news that Russell Westbrook had agreed to sign an extension with the team, there was a celebration on social media. Of the two top 10 NBA players who were on their team for the past eight years, one of them said he wanted to stay put and that was a cause for a party.
However, as the exact details of the proposed deal started to get digested, some of the shine was worn off, but not enough to detract from the fan’s celebration.
According to various reports, Westbrook will sign a 3-year extension worth $85.7 million. He will hold a player option on the final season.
Since he was going to be a free agent after the end of the 2016-17 season, the extension adds one more guaranteed year under contract for the Thunder. After that, he can leave or stay with the franchise that drafted him.
Some may look at the extension as just a temporary plug in a leaking ship. With no promise Westbrook will be in Oklahoma beyond 2018, the Thunder will have to go through this same tumultuous offseason in two years.
So should Thunder fans be happy or not?
Even though the new deal isn’t long term, it was a win-win for both the player and the team.
For Westbrook, he gets a raise from the $17 million he was scheduled to make this year to $26.5 million. After two years, he can opt out of his contract, and sign a new one with the Thunder that could see him making more than $31 million a season, or more.
The extension also gives Westbrook more freedom, not that he didn’t have any before. But without having to share shots with Kevin Durant, he could be in store for a historical offensive season.
When Durant was injured two years ago and played in only 21 game, everyone got a glimpse of what a Westbrook led team would look like. With a rookie Steven Adams and Enes Kanter playing only half the year in Oklahoma City, they were one game away from making the postseason and Westbrook collected triple doubles like they were baseball cards. Now the team is older, more mature and hopefully more talented with the addition of Victor Olidipo and others.
For the Thunder, the extension stabilizes what has been an unsettling offseason. Losing Durant turned the franchise on its head and put them into emergency lock down mode. Keeping Westbrook became the top priority.
Being able to guarantee that their remaining star attraction will be around for at least two more seasons settles everything down and gives General Manager Sam Presti and his crew a chance to put together a game plan and direction going forward.
For the fans, it gives them somebody to root for instead of someone to just root against. The same player that half the fan based wanted to trade five years ago is now going to champion their cause of being a city where big time players will want to come to and play.
No matter how long its for or what his reasons were, Westbrook did choose to stay in Oklahoma. For now, that may be enough for a fan base that has been rejected once already.