Russell Westbrook Signs New Contract: Takeaways from Thunder Press Conference
The Oklahoma City Thunder and their fans received some much-needed good news Thursday when All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook agreed to a contract extension, the team officially announced.
ESPN's Ramona Shelburne first reported Westbrook's new pact, adding it's a renegotiated deal for this season. The agreement reportedly includes one guaranteed year for 2017-18, a player option the following season and is worth a total of $85.7 million.
On Thursday, Westbrook and Thunder general manager Sam Presti held a press conference to discuss the 27-year-old's decision and what it means for him and the franchise's future.
ESPN's Royce Young provided video from the scene outside Chesapeake Energy Arena. Thunder fans were present to warmly greet Westbrook when he arrived:
Presti opened the press conference with kind words about Westbrook and his importance to Oklahoma City, per Erik Horne of the Oklahoman: [Westbrook] has become synonymous with not just the Thunder but the city and the spirit of the city."
Westbrook echoed Presti's sentiments, per Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript: "There is nowhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma City…You guys have basically raised me."
Per Young, Westbrook added he is being "loyal" to the Thunder fans and that "loyalty is something I stand by."
As for his extension coming one year before he was eligible for free agency, Westbrook said, “If you know where you want to be, there’s no need to waste time,” per Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo.
He also addressed the Kevin Durant-sized elephant in the room. Westbrook said he heard his former teammate was signing with the Golden State Warriors "like y’all found out. On the news on the social media," per Katz.
It wasn't until after Durant's article appeared on the Players' Tribune that Westbrook received a text from Durant, per Charlie Hannema of Tulsa's News on 6.
However, Durant's departure did not lead to Westbrook tossing aside their friendship, per NBA Updates: "We played together for eight years. You don't just throw that away."
With Durant gone, Westbrook is the unquestioned face of basketball in Oklahoma City. He got a brief taste of that role two years ago when Durant missed most of the season with foot issues.
However, per Woo, Westbrook said his game won't change: “I play the same way every night, regardless of if I‘m the guy, the next guy or the guy in the spotlight. That’s who I am.”
Westbrook echoed that notion when he was asked about specifically playing Golden State next season, per Horne:
With a new deal in hand, Westbrook is ready to get started on the 2016-17 season, per Woo: “I wish the season started tomorrow, honestly.”
Westbrook has forged a bond with the Thunder and Oklahoma City fans and showed his commitment to them. But the mission does not end with his extension. He is still on a quest to bring Oklahoma City a championship.
It's a tall task in a loaded Western Conference, but it's one he will happily take on.