Will Russell Westbrook Stay in OKC?
By Jordy Harris
Over the last three weeks Oklahoma City Thunder fans have had to deal with the heartbreaking reality of losing the franchise’s biggest superstar to the Golden State Warriors in free agency with Kevin Durant. Now, they have the potential of having their hearts ripped out again and having it dropped into a bucket of...boiling tears, if Russell Westbrook leaves town, too. However, I think he is staying put here in OKC, and here is why.
Hold onto your hats with this first reason: money. The Thunder can offer Westbrook the most money of any team in the NBA. I don’t claim to be an NBA salary cap guru by any means, but if I’m not mistaken the Thunder could offer him a contract close to around $200 million (that’s crazy isn’t it?) after this upcoming season when the NBA salary cap will take a significant boost upwards in 2017-2018. Westbrook doesn’t have the type of superstar endorsements like other players around the league. He just isn’t as marketable as guys like LeBron, Durant and Steph Curry. And honestly, I think that's perfectly fine with him. He just seems to be a different guy. So Russ, stay in OKC and make the money you deserve from your play on the court, because I can’t blame an athlete for wanting to cash in.
Second, the Thunder, to me, have the best roster among possible reported landing destinations for Westbrook either via trade or free agency, both currently and for the future to have the most success. They have a young and athletic nucleus with the likes of Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson and potentially add to that list the Thunder's newest addition of Alex Abrines. A head coach in Billy Donovan who coached phenomenally in his first season in the NBA and was only one superstar Kevin Durant performance in either Game 5...OR Game 6...OR Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals from playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. But, whatever. I’m over it...sort of. They also have a general manager in Sam Presti, whom I’m pretty sure is a Jedi Master among NBA GM’s, that is always looking one step ahead for the Thunder franchise to compete for an NBA championship and sustain lasting success. I know that other teams like the Lakers, Heat, even the Knicks, have what seem to be promising rosters and fantastic front office minds, but I don’t believe they are as well built for sustainable success as the Thunder is. Even though it is a popular opinion that Westbrook wants to go to a big city like LA, Miami, or NYC so he can continue to build up his rep as the #fashionking of the NBA, I think all of that will take a third row backseat to basketball.
I believe off court ventures, especially with how the Thunder's 2016 campaign ended and the events that took place on July 4th, have taken a place in the back of Westbrook’s mind. Watching Westbrook play, you cannot deny that the guy has only one thing on his mind while he's on the court, and that’s winning. My immediate thought when I read the tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski that Durant would not re-sign with the Thunder and instead sign a free agent deal with the Warriors was something I’d rather not repeat on here (and you’re lying if you say your thoughts weren’t in the same ballpark as mine). My 4th was ruined. Then I quickly thought, “wow, this is going to piss Russ off. This is HIS team now if he wants it to be.”
Westbrook has the personality type on the court, as corny as it sounds, of an alpha male. You can tell by the intensity that he plays with every second he is out there. Every play looks like it will be his last - something that Kevin Durant lacks at times. And that’s fine. That’s just laid-back KD, again, at times, and thats perfectly fine. Not everyone has the same intense personality as Westbrook. Actually, there’s only been one other player that I think you can compare personality types on the floor as him and that's Kobe Bryant. Give me a break. I'm not old enough to truly remember other personality types before 1998.
Recently there have been reports that Russ is now “angered, motivated” by KD’s decision to leave OKC. Alpha male. These reports, and at this time that's all they are, add traction to what I have thought for almost three weeks now, “Russell Westbrook is pissed off and ready to lead OKC.” His #fashionking quest can be put off to the side for off-seasons, or later on in his career, and when he’s retired. Even though I’m all for players having a life outside of basketball, but that's a different argument. Anyway, I truly believe that Russ will re-sign with the Thunder after next season for the 2017-2018 season, when he can get the money he deserves. Get your money, Russ. I think that he is a smart enough basketball mind to realize that what he has here in OKC is built for a better now and future than other teams around the league. I think we will see an even more focused and fired up Westbrook than we have ever seen in OKC next season and man, I cannot wait. When OKC plays at Golden State on opening night of the NBA season (please, please, please let us have that game), I fully expect for Russ to barely acknowledge KD, again alpha male, before the game à la Kobe and Shaq in their first few meetings on opposing teams, as he begins his path to leading a deep playoff run and winning the 2017-2018 NBA MVP as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This whole article could be worth a pile on Kevin Durant Thunder jerseys in a few days, weeks, or months with how Sam Presti operates and Westbrook could be traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for a season and then goes to the Los Angeles Lakers the following season to be the #fashionking of America and never sniff the NBA Finals again. With my luck, that probably what will happen. Even then, #donthatethebrodie. But, if things go how my gut is telling me they will go, Westbrook will be in a Thunder uniform for many years to come.
Jordy Harris is a graduate of Southwestern Christian University ('13) and loves everything about Oklahoma City, except the fact that Cox Communications has a stronghold on his entertainment needs and that Swadley's is no longer open on Sundays. He is an avid fan of Virginia Tech football, Arsenal, the NBA and the NFL. He believes Breaking Bad and The Office are the two best shows ever made. He once saw Inception. Or at least dreamt he did. You can follow Jordy on Twitter at @J_Harris03.