Despite that being the case, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com stated during a recent edition of his podcast that a number of executives around the league believe that it might be the right time for Sam Presti and the rest of Oklahoma City’s front office to take a hard look at whether or not Westbrook should be part of the puzzle moving forward. “There’s an increasing number of people around the league who think the Thunder should look at trading [Russell] Westbrook. To be clear, not a report. Not Thunder sources think they should do this. Just in spitballing ideas with teams around the league, there’s a number of people who have heard, just like, ‘It’s time for something to change here.'”
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The expectation is that the Thunder will meet with Westbrook at the start of free agency and offer him that five-year extension. If he takes it, he’ll solidify himself as the face of the franchise, and the hub around which Presti will try to reconstruct a championship contender. But if Westbrook isn’t willing to commit, it would almost certainly set off a frenzied bidding war for Westbrook’s services — and, in doing so, give Presti the chance he didn’t have with Durant: to get something in return for a departing star.
After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player. The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.
Paired with Durant’s exit, a draft-night deal sent fellow franchise “founding father” Serge Ibaka to the Magic in exchange for young guard Victor Oladipo, and now the Thunder were suddenly facing a crossroads. Either Westbrook was going to sign an extension or they were going to trade him and begin a complete teardown and rebuild. As other league executives buzzed about the possibility of Westbrook being available, the Thunder fielded calls but never remotely considered trading their star. They needed an answer first. They knew it would be firm and would be final. No back-channel maneuvering, no fence-straddling. That’s not Westbrook’s style.
Erik Horne: Russell Westbrook shouting out the entire Lakers Hall of Fame when asked about the trade deadline today: On if he keeps up with what’s going on around the league at the deadline: Like I’ve always said, I never worry about the other team. I don’t care if the Lakers got Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem, Kobe, it don’t matter. All my job is to worry about our team, who we got here and we go out and compete. The trade stuff is a part of the game. It’s a part of the NBA. Different guys go to different teams, but our job is to worry about our team. At least that’s my job, is to worry about what’s going on here, how we can improve.
Baron Davis: Just saw @russwest44 not starting in the Allstar game …. this Russian hackers shit is getting out of control. Change the voting
Sources close to the situation say the Thunder’s view on Westbrook is to see what he can do as the single focal point of the team and plan to keep the noise out of the equation until next summer. That’s not to say if the Thunder simply crumble under their own weight that things won’t be re-visited on this front. It’s simply that the Thunder and Westbrook have pledged to give this season a real chance before addressing the future beyond his new contract.
There is little doubt that after losing Kevin Durant to free agency for nothing in return that the Thunder won’t be more mindful in how they handle Westbrook, but as sources close to the situation have said, there is almost no scenario in which the Thunder look at trades with Westbrook this year. The hope is that he can be the triple-double MVP candidate he looked like two years ago and that would take care of everything.
Westbrook’s free agency loomed in the summer of 2017. The Thunder couldn’t afford to lose two All-NBA players for nothing in consecutive years. If Westbrook had left an impression that the loss of Durant left him unenthusiastic about the franchise’s future – never mind unwilling – sources say the next step would’ve come swiftly: Westbrook would have been moved into the marketplace, traded for a package of young players and draft picks.
Steve Kyler: Just an FYI, after signing renegotiated deal, Westbrook not tradeable for 6 months.
Westbrook has remained mum, but he and the Thunder have been in communication often since Durant’s departure. Plenty want to hear from Westbrook, but he isn’t going to play out his free agency in the public eye. There won’t be any “I’ll make that decision when the time comes” mediaspeak. It’s not hard to gauge him when it comes to public comments; he’s as transparent as they come. And with Durant now gone, Westbrook understands the gravity of his own choice — he leaves, and the organization burns to the ground in a summer. So he wants to give them clarity to either move on with or without him.
The Thunder are still reeling from the sting of Durant’s decision, and most in the organization have been left jaded by a cornerstone piece saying all the right things and then turning another direction at the last minute. Even with Westbrook’s history of avoiding doublespeak, actions speak louder than words. So the Thunder are pushing for it, and their decision to rescind Dion Waiters’ qualifying offer suggests they’re paving a way to do it.
They already have received plenty of calls about Westbrook, and thus far have told teams he’s unavailable. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, he doesn’t want to be traded. He wants to play next season with the Thunder. It’s the year after that which is in question. There’s a growing belief Westbrook will think heavily about an extension but will first weigh every angle before doing it.
Nevertheless, Westbrook is a proponent of the young talent on the Thunder roster and is eager to lead the team in the 2016-17 season, sources said. So far, league sources said, teams that have reached out to the Thunder about trading for Westbrook have been told that he isn’t available.
Westbrook has given the Thunder no indication that he currently wants out. To the contrary, one source described him as ticked off about the Kevin Durant departure, determined for this new challenge and eager for the season to start: “He’s ready.”
“No team is going to pay a hefty price without getting a commitment from Westbrook,” the source said. “Someone may pay a cheaper price without a commitment, but OKC probably doesn’t do a deal like that.”
“Russ is in control of the situation. Not any team,” the source said. “He controls his destiny. But if a team is going to get him, they need a long-term commitment.”
OKC could take this thing into the season and see how things look. The Thunder still has an athletic young core that fits around Westbrook nicely. He’s already been in communication with Victor Oladipo, his new backcourt partner. He’s long lauded the toughness and potential of Steven Adams. And there was no louder a public advocate for Enes Kanter’s Sixth Man campaign last season than Westbrook — typically a terrible quote, but not if you ask him about either of his young bigs.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard said Friday that any talk of Boston moving to acquire Westbrook at this point is all speculation, particularly since Celtics general manager/president of basketball operations Danny Ainge “is one of the chief wheelers and dealers in the league.” “On paper, they make sense as a team that could trade for a Blake Griffin or a Russell Westbrook,” Broussard said of the Celtics dealing for either of the two Western Conference stars. “… but at this point Westbrook has not given Oklahoma City any indication that he’s definitely out of there, or that he’s definitely staying.”
In terms of other players in which the Celts are rumored to have interest, there have still been no recent talks regarding Blake Griffin or Russell Westbrook.
Multiple witness accounts from Westbrook’s OKC camp had the Thunder star being asked by campers if he’ll be back at the camp in 2017, to which Westbrook said yes. Other than that subject-to-change answer to his young fans, it’s been quiet in regard to his future.
Sources indicate the Celtics are very much open to major moves, but while situations certainly remain fluid and they have expressed interest in Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook in the past, there have been no discussions regarding those players in quite some time.
The Celtics are up to something. Talk to any front-office executive here at the annual Summer League festivities, and the consensus is that a major deal involving Boston is coming soon. But it might not be the deal most were expecting. While speculation has held that the Celtics would pursue Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook after Kevin Durant left the team to join the Warriors, sources told Sporting News that Westbrook’s representatives have been given no word of a potential deal. Westbrook can become a free agent after the season, so it would be part of the due diligence of the Celtics to find out if he’d be willing to consider staying in Boston long-term.
There should be no question by now that the Celts still believe they need to make changes to their roster before the season begins, and it has been confirmed that they are trying to accomplish this on multiple avenues — to no avail thus far. Sources indicate the Celtics are very much open to major moves, but, while situations certainly remain fluid and they have expressed interest in Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook in the past, there have been no discussions regarding those players in quite some time.
Steve Bulpett: Always trust @HowardBeck. Important to note his report says GMs think C’s are logical trade partner for Westbrook, not that there are talks.
I know this: Right now his mindset is on the team they have. Can we add pieces in the short term? Can we go out in free agency? That doesn’t mean he’s not leaving next year, but his attitude isn’t “Aw man, Kevin left, I’m screwed — I gotta get out of here.” I’ve been told Russell has been very determined to lead the team they have — and I know this — Russell really likes the town, he likes bringing in Oladipo, Steven Adams, those are his guys. He thinks they’re a real talented team that, if they can add another significant piece, it puts them right back in contention.
I think he’s embracing this, and he can go out next summer and get a 200 million dollar extension with Oklahoma City. I know this: They will not in the short term be putting him out in trade talks. I think this will play out over time here, and they’re focused on improving that team around him.”
Presti doesn’t want to trade Westbrook, but if he feels backed into a corner, he will chase young players and draft picks. The Phoenix Suns reportedly talked with the Atlanta Hawks about Paul Millsap, and they come armed with prospects galore, extra point guards and two future Miami picks.
If Westbrook chooses not to extend his contract this summer, multiple league executives told ESPN they believe the Thunder will consider fielding trade offers for Westbrook.
Ira Winderman: For trade purposes, Westbrook to earn $18 million this season in final year of contract. So teams could be looking at a rental.
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January 19, 2019 | 9:33 pm EST Update
Eric Koreen: Per Raps, Green fell one point short of Lowry’s franchise record of 22 points in a quarter, set on Dec. 2, 2015 in Atlanta. Green’s seven threes were, of course, a franchise record for 3s in a frame.
Tania Ganguli: Some fun facts about Kuzma’s big first quarter from the Lakers. He’s the first Laker with 20 in the first since Kobe in 2011. Only six players have had multiple 20-point quarters this season: Steph Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Paul George, Kemba Walker and Kyle Kuzma
Scott Agness: Good time for the Pacers to play the Mavericks. They won 111-99 led by 19 points from Tyreke Evans. Sabonis had 16/11. Most starters played ~25m with another game tomorrow night vs Hornets.