Russell Westbrook still has not signed his super max contract extension with the Thunder, and if this issue creeps into the start of NBA training camp expect these 2018 trade whispers to the Lakers to turn into shouts.
In a perfect world, Westbrook will re-sign with the Thunder in the next few weeks, he and Paul George will gel perfectly, and Oklahoma City will wind up winning the 2018 NBA title. But as we know from watching the real life news these days – we do not live in a perfect world.
Nearly as much as LeBron James and George, Westbrook is a strong candidate to wind up in Los Angeles with the Lakers in 11 months. Westbrook (like George) is from LA and still holds Southern California near and dear. In fact Westbrook, George and basically the entire Thunder organization were in Los Angeles this week working out in order to build chemistry for the 2017-18 season. The reigning NBA MVP will also be spending a ton of time in his hometown the next few weeks promoting his new fashion book.
Thunder fans aren’t positive why Westbrook has not yet signed the super max deal that would immediately make him the highest paid player in the NBA. The Thunder fan website – Thunderous Intentions – put this as their No. 1 theory a few weeks back:
He’s waiting until August 4
Last year, Westbrook extended his deal on August 4 and Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett declared that day “Russell Westbrook Day.” Should Westbrook sign the triple-double extension, it would be cause for another celebration. Since Russell is a generous guy, he doesn’t want to have two days named after him, so he’ll sign the deal on August 4. Thus saving the city a lot of money as they only have to celebrate Russell Westbrook Day one day a year. However, none of this should stop us from celebrating Russell Westbrook every single day.
Seriously, this was the No. 1 theory … Man, it’s going to kill these poor guys if he pulls a Durant next summer.
The calendar now reads Aug. 22, so there will have to be two Westbrook Days in OKC if he does re-sign in the next few weeks.
The Lakers stuff
Thunder fans were happy to hear about the Pacers filing tampering charges against the Lakers for their flirtation with George, but this should amount to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. As The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor pointed out Tuesday, mild tampering is commonplace in the NBA – particularly in the month of June.
Tampering is hard, if not impossible to prove. “If there’s a paper trail, then it’ll be a thing,” said one league executive, adding he doubts there were any distinct emails or texts that implicate Magic. “No paper trail, no problem.”
Every source I’ve spoken with would be surprised if any concrete evidence is found.
In other words, George to the Lakers next summer is still an excellent bet. If George and Westbrook both play under their current deals this season with the Thunder and develop some sort of bromance that could spell long term doom for the Thunder. The duo (again, both from Los Angeles), could pack their bags together.
Westbrook does seem to have a lot more respect for OKC than Durant did, so it’s possible that he would do a sign-and-trade with the Thunder next year so that the franchise was not left barren.
Just before the George trade, here is what Royce Young of ESPN said about Westbrook’s contract issue.
“What we could be looking at is the reigning MVP suddenly being on the trading block, because if he turns down this contract extension, the Thunder are then facing the reality they went through last summer, which is an MVP player, their franchise player, turning them down, and they cannot risk going into free agency and losing him for nothing.”
Obviously the George trade changed a lot of things, but it still has not convinced Westbrook to tie himself down long term in Oklahoma City. These next few weeks, and potentially months will be mighty interesting.