The Pressure is on for Sam Presti
By Michael Doutey
After Kevin Durant decided to shock the NBA world on our Nation’s birthday and bolted for Golden State, the Oklahoma City Thunder took some time to process everything and look at their options.
It was pretty clear what the Thunder had to decide next. What to do with Russell Westbrook?
It made it easier for Sam Presti that the new sole face of the franchise was wondering what the next step for the team as well.
A month to the day later, the Thunder and Westbrook agreed on an extension to keep Westbrook in OKC for a little longer. A huge celebration was had and the party-like press conference announcing the extension helped heal a fanbase and city mourning the loss of their first NBA love.
As the celebration has come to end, now we are all looking forward to seeing what a King Westbrook team looks like. But this quietly becomes the biggest year of Sam Presti’s career.
The Westbrook extension says two things about the future of the franchise.
First, it says that Westbrook does want to be in Oklahoma City. That is music to everyones ears in OKC. That was what we thought about Kevin Durant, not Russell Westbrook.
It is funny how this offseason has cleared up the speculation that has always surrounded KD and Russ. It is like we have finally seen the true colors of both those guys.
But lets not burry our heads in the sand. There is more to Westbrook signing this extension than just loyalty. This is a business and Westbrook is going to make nearly $9 million more this season than he would have if he didn’t sign the extension. It was a smart business move as well.
But if he didn’t sign back, then he would have probably been shipped out of town, which is not what Westbrook wanted. And after all, he did sign a longer deal than Kevin Durant just did with his new team.
But the extension is really only giving the Thunder one more season. He has a player option for the third year, but since that will be Westbrook’s tenth season in the NBA, he would likely opt out of the deal and sign a new contract. He can make more money if he does it that way, even if he decides to leave.
But if he stays, he could sign the first $200 million contract in the league and by the end of his career he would have made more in career earnings than anyone who has ever played in the NBA. That is something that would be hard for anyone to pass up.
But would he stay if the team isn’t a championship level team?
With this contract, Westbrook is giving time for Sam Presti to lure a big free agent to OKC next offseason that can get the Thunder back to competing for a championship.
With the current roster, the Thunder are a playoff team but not a championship level team. Westbrook is in the prime of his career and when this extension is up, he will still be in his prime. But he wants to win, probably more so than he is loyal to this team and city. It would be hard to blame him for that.
This new contract is a chance for Presti to make some magic and bring in a marquee free agent, something that has yet to happen since the team has relocated here.
Continue to praise Westbrook’s loyalty. Since August Fourth, Westbrook has become the savior of this city and franchise. But also know that what happens two off seasons from now is solely up to what Sam Presti can do in the next 365 days.
Keeping Westbrook here for now is great. But it is now up to Presti to make to moves necessary to keep Westbrook in OKC for good.
Michael Doutey is a Mass Communications graduate from UCO in 2013 and a current producer for the Sport Animals morning drive show, the Morning Animals. Michael is an avid sport fan and most closely follows OSU and the Thunder. You can follow him on Twitter @mike_doutey