Russell Westbrook: ‘Loyalty is something I stand by’

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Why did Russell Westbrook sign a contract extension with the Thunder?

Because he’s fiercely loyal to Oklahoma City? Or because he got a raise of more than $8 million?

The answer matters little today. The Thunder locked up their superstar point guard, and they’ll try to win with him.

But, in two years, when Westbrook will likely opt out to become an unrestricted free agent, the answer matters greatly. Oklahoma City can offer greater raises and one more year than outside teams – based on the current system, which could change by then – but the per-season salary difference won’t be as drastic as it was now.

Westbrook:

There is nowhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma City.

You guys have basically kind of raised me. I’ve been here since I was 18, 19 years old. You guys did nothing but great things for me. Through the good and the bad, you guys supported me overall and through it all, and I appreciate it. Definitely, when I had an opportunity to be able to be loyal to you guys, that was the No. 1 option. And loyalty is something I stand by.

Asked more specifically whether he viewed this as a long-term commitment despite locking in through just 2018, Westbrook was vaguer:

My job is to be able to find somewhere that I want to be and want to play with a group of guys, and I figured this was the place where I wanted to be. Obviously, with the contracts and all the new CBA stuff, there’s different ways you can do that. But me, being able to have the opportunity to be able to extend and be here, that’s what I wanted to do, and I stand behind that.

This is why criticizing Kevin Durant for touting his loyalty is unfair. Durant was loyal to the Thunder until he left. He played hard, devoted himself to winning and developed his game. For Durant, loyalty didn’t mean never-ending commitment. It meant fully committing himself while on the team.

There’s a reason Westbrook didn’t answer the latter question by proclaiming he’d stay in Oklahoma City beyond his extension. He can’t know that.

Like Durant before him, Westbrook will assuredly throw himself into the challenges facing his team the next two years. But beyond that, nothing is set in stone.

Back to the original questions: Why did Russell Westbrook sign a contract extension with the Thunder? Because he’s fiercely loyal to Oklahoma City? Or because he got a raise of more than $8 million?

The answers probably lie between. The Thunder must determine which side carries more weight. That will go a long way in determining their best course from here.