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Thunder: No new contract for Westbrook, no worries either

COMMENTARY — Expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to re-sign Russell Westbrook. Just don't expect it to come easily as Kevin Durant's contract extension.
by Berry Tramel Modified: December 14, 2011 at 12:15 am •  Published: December 13, 2011

Sam Presti and lieutenant Troy Weaver knocked on Kevin Durant's door at 11:01 p.m. June 30, 2010. They had a deal done by 11:02.

Now, the next Thunder superstar is up for a contract extension, and there will be no doorstep deal for Russell Westbrook.

Don't blame Presti and don't blame Westbrook. Blame circumstances. The NBA lockout, ended by a sudden labor agreement over Thanksgiving weekend, has created a shotgun start to not just training camp or the season, but contract negotiations.

What usually is accomplished gradually over months now is being shoe-horned into a couple of weeks. The season starts in 11 days, and the Hornets, for example, have seven ballplayers on their roster, not counting training-camp invites.

The Thunder wants to sign Westbrook to a deal, and Westbrook has indicated he wants to sign a deal. But not even the Thunder's nerdy brain trust has grasped all the intricacies of the new labor agreement.

If we know anything by now, it's that Presti doesn't do anything without knowing all the angles. He and his staff must learn all the nuances of the new salary cap and luxury taxes — a master's degree in quantitative analysis is recommended — because every penny the Thunder spends is deeply considered.

So the Westbrook extension very likely will spill over into the regular season. Will that create tension?

Doesn't have to. This isn't New Orleans or Orlando.

Chris Paul wants out of New Orleans, and the Hornet season is a mess. Dwight Howard appears headed out of Orlando, come trade or free agency, so the Magic doesn't know if it will tip off Christmas night with Superman or Daniel Orton in the jump circle.

Westbrook has made no demands. No threats. No vow of anything other than doing his best to win.

“It's not a distraction at all,” Westbrook said Tuesday during Thunder Media Day. “I'm looking forward to this year and big things out of my teammates.

“I'm going to let my agent and Sam discuss those things.”

It would be nice and tidy if the Thunder could tie up Westbrook for the next five years. Secure the services of two all-stars for the next half decade? The Thunder would have their cornerstones.

Durant said he's not recruiting Westbrook, primarily because “he's already on our team.”

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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