OKLAHOMA CITY — The sky blue runner was laid out, with fans versed with handmade signs and intelligent phones backing decaled barricades, watchful for a automobile to arrive and dump off Russell Westbrook.
Local businesses downtown let employees off work early, enlivening them to conduct to Chesapeake Energy Arena. Drummers battered on their snares and cymbals, sparse chants of “Rus-sell!” pennyless out organically, group employees bounced around handing out bottles of H2O and sleet cones. More than a thousand people were gathered, sweating in unanimity on a erotic Aug day — one in that a mayor of Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett, had announced to be Russell Westbrook Day.
One month ago to a day, Kevin Durant had sealed with a Golden State Warriors, bringing a Oklahoma City Thunder authorization to a knees. “A lorry usually ran by us,” is how one chairman within a group phrased it.
Now, a jubilee was happening. Westbrook had sealed an extension, stabilizing a classification and permitting it to finally start to pierce forward. Durant’s depart was a darkest day in authorization history; Westbrook’s joining competence be a brightest.
The suddenness of Westbrook’s renegotiated understanding function was jarring, going from passed overpower for a final month to news violation late on Wednesday it was close, and afterwards done. But in reality, Westbrook and a Thunder have been in agreement on an prolongation for some-more than dual weeks. The vigilance was Dion Waiters‘ subordinate offer being rescinded, a pierce finished with usually a idea of pardon required top space to extend Westbrook. The impulse a Thunder pulled that offer, they knew they had a joining from Westbrook.
In a arise of Durant’s departure, a Thunder focused on calm and level-headed choices. They fast incited to Westbrook to try and solid a authorization and to do it with something tangible. A agreement prolongation that in essence, plants a dwindle in a belligerent with a Thunder. A stipulation that in forgoing his possess giveaway group a year from now, Westbrook was going to collect adult a layer Durant frankly laid down.
Yes, Westbrook now maximizes his earning potential. His agreement is a renegotiation and it usually goes up, adding on an additional $8.7 million this season. Then it’s another guaranteed year with a Thunder, and afterwards Westbrook hits a desired 10-year maestro max qualifier, and could ink a five-year, $204 million contract, creation him a highest-paid actor in a NBA.
But first, he had to dedicate to a Thunder now.
“All a times we’ve been together,” OKC ubiquitous manager Sam Presti said, “I don’t consider I’ve ever walked out a review with him thinking, we don’t know where he stands, we don’t know what he thinks, we don’t know what he means. It was right down a middle. Direct.”
But following Durant’s announcement, as he pronounced Thursday, Westbrook fast shifted into meditative forward for a Thunder. He asked Presti, “What’s next?”
“I said, ‘Here is one thing that could be next,’ ” Presti said. “I’d unequivocally like it to happen, by a way.”
The Thunder done it their primary design to close adult Westbrook. They maneuvered to be in a position to do it, and once they rigourously presented a option, it didn’t take prolonged for him to commit.
It competence have seemed as if it was a toss-up, that a Russell Westbrook many understand wouldn’t stay in small ol’ Oklahoma City. He’s got his conform interests. He’s from Los Angeles. He’s got to crave a large city spotlight. Durant always seemed to be a ideal fit with Oklahoma City, with his common inlet and down-home demeanor. But he also was drawn to a bigger city, not indispensably for a brighter lights, yet for a ability to blend. In Oklahoma City, Durant carried a larger-than-life weight everywhere he went. He’d secretly lamented to friends an inability to be in public. Westbrook’s ideal night off a floor, though? At home with his mother Nina, examination anything other than basketball. That’s a fit with Oklahoma City.
While Durant mostly had issues with a register — not adequate veterans, not a right mix, not adequate spending — Westbrook has always been a follower in Presti. Westbrook’s genius has consistently been this: Give me a 14 guys we wish me to play with, and we’ll go after it. And as a Thunder now reconfigure around him, Presti has a shortcoming of classification by a best approach to element a Westbrook-led roster.
Westbrook’s universe is perpetually opposite now. He was once a partial of a core, with Durant and James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Then he was a Han Solo to Durant’s Luke Skywalker. Now, he’s flagbearer, presumption a full weight of a authorization on his back. He now takes on a shortcoming of being a authorization player, alone. He didn’t ask for it. But he has embraced it.
Westbrook has always has been an overcomer. He didn’t caring he was hardly recruited out of high school. He didn’t wince during critics observant he’s not a indicate guard. He’s not one to bashful divided from a challenge. He runs into them headfirst, full steam ahead, infrequently for improved or worse. Picking adult a pieces after Durant’s exit is as most a plea as there is.
Exactly a kind of thing Russell Westbrook lives for.