The NBA’s Most Valuable Player for 2016-17, Russell Westbrook, still has not signed his supermax contract extension with Oklahoma City. Thunder fans have reason to worry as they are still reeling from the loss of superstar and reigning finals MVP Kevin Durant, not to mention the fact that all-star Paul George only signed to play in Oklahoma City for one year. Should the Westbrook contract issue spill into the start of NBA training camp, the 2018 trade whispers to the Lakers will turn into shouts.
In a perfect world, Westbrook will re-sign with the Thunder sooner rather than later, he and Paul George will gel quickly, and Oklahoma City will wind up winning the 2018 NBA title. However, as we know from watching the real life news these days, there is no such thing as a perfect world.
Just as much if not more so than LeBron James and Paul George, Russell Westbrook is a strong candidate to wind up in Los Angeles with the Lakers before the start of the 2018-19 campaign. Westbrook is from Los Angeles and still holds Southern California near and dear. So fond of the area is Westbrook that he, George, and pretty much the entire Thunder organization were in Los Angeles this week, working out in an attempt to get a jumpstart on the 2017-18 season. Russell also intends to spend plenty of time in his hometown over the next few weeks to promote his new fashion book, which will be out in early September.
Whether promoting a book or attending fashion shows, Westbrook knows Los Angeles is one of the best markets to be seen in.
If Westbrook signs a contract extension with the Thunder, he will, in all likelihood, become the highest paid player in NBA history. However, the uncertainty of whether Paul George will remain on board after this season, as well as the possibility of going to his hometown and bringing other stars with him, appear to have made Russell Westbrook’s decision a complicated one. The Thunder organization would certainly love to hold onto the man who has become arguably the most electrifying and exciting player in the entire league, and they hope he feels just as strong about wanting to stay.
During a press conference at the end of last season, team General Manager Sam Presti stated, “We’re obviously hopeful that he remains really excited about being a part of this organization for the remainder of his career.”
Last year, Russell agreed to extend his contract through the 2017-18 season on August 4. The fact that we have reached August 24 of this year and he has yet to agree to anything more beyond one more season has the attention of everyone in Oklahoma City. Adding Paul George in the offseason changed a lot of things, but it still has not convinced Westbrook to tie himself down long term in Oklahoma City.
If George and Westbrook both play under their current deals this season with the Thunder and develop strong chemistry on the court and a friendship off the court, Thunder fans will have more reason to worry. The two stars could conceivably conspire to leave together. The Los Angeles Lakers seem to be the prime candidate to land them not only because of their ties to the area, but the team already appears to have a bright future. If rookie point guard Lonzo Ball lives up to the hype and shows that his play in the summer league has been no fluke, the Lakers will be an even more enticing landing spot for the superstar free agents next season. On top of that, if LeBron James, who has a home in Los Angeles, chooses to leave Cleveland after this season ends, then Westbrook and George may feel even more tempted to make a move and possibly talk LeBron into coming with them and creating another “super-team.” Either way, the 2017-18 NBA season promises to be very interesting.
[Featured Image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]