Report: Westbrook agrees to max extension with Thunder

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have some hard choices coming in the next few years as they try to keep this core together — but Russell Westbrook just made that a little bit easier.

Westbrook has reached a max extension deal with the Thunder, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook has signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension with the Oklahoma, league sources told Yahoo! Sports….

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, Westbrook could’ve been eligible for a maximum deal worth 30 percent of the Thunder’s salary cap next season. To do so, he needed to satisfy requirements that included him being named to the All-NBA team twice in four years. Nevertheless, Westbrook gets an extension that pays him 25 percent of the Thunder’s cap and preserves space that allows the franchise to construct future deals for James Harden and Serge Ibaka.

That last part is key — Westbrook could have gotten a “Derrick Rose” rule deal (if he makes the All-Star Game again this season), which is what the Thunder modified Kevin Durant’s deal to be. It would mean more money in Westbook’s pocket (about $15 million total over five years), but would also means 60 percent of the Thunder’s cap space would be tied up in two players and keeping guys like Harden would have been difficult.

The Yahoo report says Westbrook did not get that kind of deal, he got the 25 percent of the salary cap deal he can sign now. If he does not get a bump up to a Rose rule size contract — and it appears he is not — this is a great deal for the Thunder.

They apparently sold him on this as a way to keep the core of this contending team together and he accepted the sacrifice.  It still will not be easy — Harden in particular is coveted by other teams and he could see tempting offers — but now the Thunder stand a better chance. OKC hopes to sign Harden to a deal around $11-12 million a year. They already have Kendrick Perkins at $9 million plus, and there is Serge Ibaka who will need an extension.

How much the small market Thunder owners are willing to spend and pay in luxury tax (especially after the more onerous provisions kick in after a couple years) remains to be seen.

Bottom line, the Thunder now have Westbrook and Durant locked up. With that they are going to be very good for the next five years, regardless.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.