Westbrook contract talks priority for Thunder
WASHINGTON: Signing NBA superstar Russell Westbrook to a contract extension will be a key focus for the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer, general manager Sam Presti said on Monday.
The team, ousted by Houston in the first round of the NBA playoffs, can talk to Westbrook starting July 1 about a fiveyear contract extension, hoping to avoid his potential departure after next season.
“When that time comes, we’ll sit down, we’ll have conversations with him about what that opportunity presents,” Presti said.
“We’re obviously hopeful that he remains really excited about being a part of this organisation for the remainder of his career.”
Westbrook, who this year became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 196162 to average a triple-double for a full season, could play one more season and opt out of his contract, making him available to the highest bidder next year.
After losing free agent Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors last July, the last thing the Thunder want to have happen is Westbrook leaving, so they seek a new deal after seeing him make history and in the wake of Durant’s departure.
“We had that conversation with Russell last year. He was really clear and it worked itself out,” Presti said.
“I think everybody knows how we feel about him. He’s a transcendent player. I think he’s a futuristic player. I think he’s a tremendous competitor and we’re fortunate to have him. We’ll have a conversation and hopefully it goes our way.”
Presti, whose team reached the 2012 NBA Finals but lost to Miami, said he was not concerned about a window of opportunity for Westbrook to be the focus the Thunder build around with his 29th birthday coming in November.
“He’s a dominant player and we’re so fortunate to have him. I just don’t think there’s many players that can impact the game like that,” Presti said.
“Sometimes with Russell, his excellence and his greatness, we look at it as if it’s something that he has to do, not something he can do. He’s that good.” AFP