Russell Westbrook wanted to keep the pressure on the Thunder organization to push to win, or he would consider leaving after the season. Sure, he signed a franchise-stabilizing contract extension last summer in the wake of Kevin Durant‘s exit, but that just added one more year to his contract and gave the Thunder a timeline. Pressure is why Westbrook’s five-year, $205 million designated veteran extension sat on the table in front of him unsigned since July 1.
That worked for Westbrook, who has signed the richest contract in NBA history, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Combined with the current extension he has six years, $233 million on his deal in Oklahoma City, he is under contract with the team through 2023. Westbrook confirmed the deal.
Westbrook is coming off a historic season where he won the MVP and averaged a triple-double (the first player to do so since Oscar Robertson) of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.
Westbrook has said before OKC is where he wanted to be, where he wanted to win, that he didn’t want to leave. Thunder fans clung to that after Durant bolted for the West Coast and his chance at glory. However, some around the league thought Westbrook would follow the LeBron model, leaving his options open and keeping pressure on the organization next summer not to backtrack and save some cash.
Friday, on Durant’s birthday, Westbrook planted his flag and thrilled Thunder fans — he will be in Oklahoma City through his prime. Oklahoma City will be a team to be reckoned with for years.
This will put interesting pressure on George this season, whose camp has let teams know he may well head to the Lakers next summer as a free agent. Now he will get a full-court press season from Westbrook and the Thunder. If this season goes well in OKC — if he meshes with Westbrook, if they win 57 games and reach the Western Conference Finals (all very possible) — will he still want to bolt for his hometown? Or will he want to stay and win? And what of Carmelo Anthony, will he opt into the final year of his contract at $28 million to stay? If George and ‘Melo want to stay, how will the Thunder handle an oversized tax bill of at least $75 million (on top of their payroll)?
Those are good problems to have. Westbrook staying makes a lot of things possible in Oklahoma City.