Russell Westbrook hasn’t given any indication to Oklahoma City Thunder that he intends to leave in free agency next season, per a source close to the superstar point guard.
According to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman, Kevin Durant’s departure to Oakland hasn’t gone down well with Westbrook, who views next season as a fresh challenge in his career.
Russell Westbrook ready for new challenge
Slater reported on Sunday: “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.’”
In recent weeks, several reports have indicated that Westbrook is hesitant to sign an extension with the Thunder, especially with the salary cap rising to $102 million next season. Westbrook can maximize earnings by playing out the last year of his contract and signing a fresh deal next year.
While Thunder are still in the best position to offer Westbrook a lucrative five-year deal next summer, the perennial MVP candidate could sacrifice a few million to go to a championship contender, similar to what Durant did earlier this summer.
With Westbrook’s future uncertain, Thunder GM Sam Presti could be forced to make the tough call of trading the point guard to avoid the risk of losing him for nothing next free agency. In the past, Presti has made a few bold calls to avoid this scenario: he traded James Harden to Houston Rockets in 2013 and traded Serge Ibaka to Orlando Magic earlier this offseason.
However, Presti wouldn’t need to worry about that consequence if Westbrook gives him an assurance of re-signing with Oklahoma City next year.
Russell Westbrook controls his destiny
According to SB Nation reporter Kevin O’Connor, Westbrook still controls his own destiny and would be unwilling to commit to any team until he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. “OKC is still trying to get Russell Westbrook to sign a contract extension, which he won’t do because extensions at this time aren’t in a player’s best interest anymore. He won’t do it,” a source was quoted as saying to O’Connor.
The report added that teams willing to trade for Westbrook will tread carefully since they face the risk of losing him in free agency. “No team is going to pay a hefty price (part with assets) without getting a commitment from Westbrook. Someone may pay a cheaper price without a commitment, but OKC probably doesn’t do a deal like that,” added the source.
“Russ is in control of the situation. Not any team. He controls his destiny. But if a team is going to get him, they need a long-term commitment,” said the source in the SB Nation report.
If Russell Westbrook were to sign with an extension this summer, he’d be leaving a lot of money on the table because of the rising salary cap next year. Therefore, it’s quite obvious that he would wait until next summer to make a decision.