Russell Westbrook's contract extension will keep Thunder among NBA elite

Wednesday was a banner day in Boomtown, when Russell Westbrook signed a five-year contract extension that binds him to the Thunder until the summer of 2017
by Berry Tramel Published: January 19, 2012

They call Russell Westbrook a shoot-first point guard. Wrong description.

Westbrook is a shoot-lots point guard — 17.3 shots a game, eighth-most in the NBA. Only Kobe Bryant shoots more among guards.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Westbrook is making 45.3 percent of his shots and in the league's top 20 for foul shots made per game. You won't hear me squawking for Westbrook to pass the ball.

But he does, frequently. Westbrook likes to pass. He tries some goofy decisions, but he makes a ton of great passes, too. A total mystery is how the world came to see Westbrook as selfish. Watch the games, please.

And more evidence arrived Wednesday, a banner day in Boomtown, when Westbrook signed a five-year contract extension that binds him to the Thunder until summer 2017.

Westbrook could have held out for more money. Could have demanded quicker freedom.

Instead, Westbrook delivered to his teammates, his organization and this city a blessed gift. Expansion of the Thunder's window of opportunity to turn Oklahoma City into Titletown.

With Kevin Durant contractually locked up through summer 2016 and the guy we thought might be Tonto but turned out to be the Sundance Kid signed through summer 2017, the local basketball club has solidified its status as NBA title contenders for at least five years.

Five years in which the Thunder annually will be considered Western Conference elite, right there with the Lakers, the Mavericks and whoever else can sustain such status or climb to it.

No promises beyond 2016, but until then, barring catastrophic injury, an oil-and-gas bust or general manager Sam Presti losing his senses, the Thunder is set for five years of excellent basketball.

With an assist from that shoot-first point guard.

Signing Westbrook to any contract would have been a relief for OKC. But signing Westbrook to this contract was a double portion.

Westbrook could have held out for a Derrick Rose contract, which would have accounted for 30 percent of the NBA payroll cap instead of the 25 percent Westbrook agreed to ($80 million over five years). Westbrook would have had to make this season's All-Star Game (likely) or all-NBA (top 15; possible) or be voted NBA Most Valuable Player (longshot).

That extra 5 percent is about $3.2 million per year, which is no pocket change for a small market franchise. That $3.2 million will help the Thunder try to keep James Harden and/or Serge Ibaka next summer.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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...
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