Russell Westbrook sat at the podium in the Integris Thunder Development Center wearing an all-black Air Jordan outfit. Atop his head, he wore a black bucket hat with cut-out labels reading “Why” “Not” and “Why not?” spread over it.
“Why not” has been the theme for Westbrook his entire life. But it has taken on new life with the 2016-17 campaign.
Back in the summer of 2016 when dreams of the Oklahoma City Thunder winning the NBA Finals were dashed with the departure of Kevin Durant, all eyes pointed to the remaining star. What would he want now? What would Sam Presti and the Thunder do with him? The future was suddenly a dark place for Thunder fans.
Then Westbrook said “Why not?” and signed an extension with the team that drafted him and chose to lead his squad.
While the season brought a historical run not seen since the Kennedy Administration, the ending did not result in Westbrook’s or the team’s ultimate desire. Despite this, the team proclaimed “King of the Prairie” is happy with his status and the team’s future.
“We’ve got a group of guys that love to work and I know we are going to come back ready,” Westbrook said to the media. “Obviously, everyone knows I love Oklahoma City and I love being here. It’s a place I want to be.”
Those words come as catnip to an ever-hungry fanbase ready to find more ways to praise their All-Star point guard.
As Westbrook addressed the media about the team, his impending parent-status and attending the NBA Awards Show in June, his personal future with the contract extension that will surely be offered to him this offseason was not a topic he had thought of.
“I haven’t thought about it just yet,” Westbrook replied.
While NBA and Thunder fans have heard similar answers to similar questions like this in the past, Westbrook did not speak like a man who is thinking about greener pastures.
“Sam (Presti) has done an amazing job and I trust in his abilities to be able to put guys here who want to be here and who want to win a championship,” Westbrook said when asked about if he would take a role in helping reshape the roster.
“If he (Presti) wants to talk to me, we have a relationship where we can.”
There will certainly be a large temperament of emotions when it comes to the long-term future of the Thunder’s superstar, Westbrook seems to appreciate his team, city and fans. He even shared his thoughts on the importance of Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson coming to Oklahoma City this season.
“For guys of that caliber to come to Oklahoma City I think is great for the people, the fans and our team is something I’ve never dreamed about and I am very thankful for.”
To say that Westbrook is eager to get back onto the court would be a lie. He will become a father in May. His fashion endeavors will take up a chunk of the offseason. But its apparent that the MVP candidate is in need of some R&R.
“Resting is something I take very seriously,” Westbrook shared. “Resting my mind and my body so I am able to remain consistent and play at a high level.”
After averaging a triple-double, it is safe to say no one will blame him for wanting a short break.
As we inch closer to another pivotal offseason for the Thunder, questions remain. Will Presti work more draft night magic to improve the team? Will these moves entice Westbrook to sign another long-term deal? If the latter does not happen, what then?
Whatever scenario, Westbrook is confident in the team now. He spoke about how much pride he derived from the team rallying around one another after Durant’s departure and the subsequent “left for dead” comments from the basketball media world.
To believe Westbrook will stay or go is up for debate. But Westbrook’s confidence grows in the team, himself and the front office, why not believe he will be the Thunder star for years to come?
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