Russell Westbrook just signed the richest guaranteed deal in NBA history… and he chose a very, very interesting time to do it.
Take a bow, Sam Presti.
When you managed to acquire Paul George earlier this summer, we responded with a shrug. “PG-13 for 1 year? What did you give up?” When we learned that you managed to unload the Victor Oladipo contract as part of the deal, we nodded with approval. “Hey, even if George does jump ship for L.A. next summer, and even if Russ ends up signing elsewhere, at least Oladipo is off the books.”
Then it was Melo. “I don’t know if this means that OKC can compete with the Warriors and Rockets in the West, but you’ve got to give it to Presti for pushing his stack into the middle!”
But as the season inched closer, it appeared that Westbrook was more and more likely to play out the final year of his contract in 2017-18 instead of signing an extension with the Thunder like Presti and fans had hoped.
That all changed on Friday when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowki announced that Westbrook signed a brand-new 5-year, $205 million extension. The deal, which was signed using the new designated player veteran extension, is the richest in NBA history. It kicks in after the upcoming 2017-18 season and guarantees Westbrook an estimated $233 million total. More importantly, OKC fans can sleep soundly knowing their MVP point guard is locked-in for the next six seasons.
Russell Westbrook's $205M extension has been signed and delivered to the league office, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 29, 2017
So now that all of that’s out of the way, we just have to ask: Did Westbrook hold off on signing his extension until September 29th for any particular reason? Like… oh, I don’t know… because September 29th is… well, you know…
KEVIN DURANT’S BIRTHDAY??!!
After all, it was KD leaving that made Westbrook such an emblem of loyalty for OKC fans in the first place; the point guard signed a contract extension less than a month after Durant joined the Warriors. “I had the opportunity to be loyal to you guys,” Westbrook said then, in August 2016, “That’s the no. 1 option. Loyalty is something I stand by.”
When asked about the delay during media day earlier this week, Westbrook said he was busy.
“Man it’s been a long, long summer,” Westbrook said. “I had a baby. So I’ve been working on a little fatherhood. But like I said before, man, this is the place I want to be. I love being here. I’m excited about the season.”
And he should be, especially after having to do it all last season. But now that he will be joined by George and Anthony on the court, the Thunder are once again equipped to pull off a postseason run in the Western Conference, just one year after Durant’s departure.
The holdup on his signing a contract extension had some questioning those remarks this summer. Both George and Anthony have player options and can choose to leave in 2018. The possibility of being alone again, with no star teammates and no bench, seemed it might have been enough to give Westbrook pause.
But Presti did right by Westbrook this offseason, turning Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and a 2018 second-round pick into George and Anthony, and essentially giving the Thunder another chance to contend. And Westbrook (who probably would have signed anyway) made good on his word, fashionably late.