Kevin Durant on Saturday said Russell Westbrook deserves the maximum five-year contract that will pay him approximately $80 million. It's a contract that will keep Westbrook in a Thunder uniform through the 2016-17 season and teammates with Durant through at least 2015-16.
“I'm excited for Russell. He's worked so hard,” Durant said. “A lot of people wrote him off. When we drafted him, people kind of didn't know what was going on. We took him fourth. But he's matured into a top five point guard in this league; top 10 player in this league, I think. The stuff he's doing is kind of unreal. If you've looked at the games he's played, some of his best games are like video game numbers.”
Durant said he was unsure which direction the franchise was going when it took so long to hammer out the deal. The organization had until Wednesday to come to terms with Westbrook on a deal or the All-Star point guard would have become a restricted free agent this summer. Durant now calls the contract “a monkey off (Westbrook's) back.”
“I'm happy for him. He deserves every penny of it,” Durant said. “I'm sure he's going to continue to keep working hard to get better. I'm just happy that we're together for at least another five years. Hopefully we can do some good things in Oklahoma City. It's going to be fun.”
The Thunder will hold a 3 p.m. press conference Sunday to announce the deal. Westbrook, GM Sam Presti and coach Scott Brooks will all be on hand.
“I'm very happy,” Brooks said of Westbrook being locked in. “Russell has been a big part of what we do here, and going forward he's going to continue to be a big part of it. Knowing Russell, how good of a worker he is, how good of a kid he is; his parents did a good job of raising him, he's coachable, he loves getting better, he loves working every day. I'm happy for him. I can't wait to keep getting him better.”
DURANT NOTCHES SEASON-HIGH REBOUNDS
After watching Washington bully his team on the boards, Durant decided to do something to help out more against New Jersey.
He ended up pulling down a season-high 15 rebounds.
“We gave up too many last game against Washington, so I just wanted to help the bigs out and grab as many as I could,” Durant said. “Luckily, a few fell in my hands so I was able to get a lot tonight.”
After the Wizards won the battle of the boards 52-43, the Thunder out-rebounded the Nets 55-46. Guard James Harden gobbled up a career-high nine rebounds, and Thabo Sefolosha recorded a season-high eight rebounds. Durant, though, has made it a point to pull down more boards.
“That's something that coach wants me to do,” said Durant, who added 20 points for his fifth double-double of the year. “He said I can get 10 a game, so I'm just going to try to go out there and get 10 and play as hard as I can on both ends of the floor. I think if I help the bigs out it'll make it much easier for us to push the ball and get easy points on the other end.”
NEW JERSEY LOVES THE THUNDER
Scores of Thunder supporters attended Saturday's game.
Oklahoma City jerseys, hats and sweatshirts were sprinkled throughout the Prudential Center, and every Thunder starter was showered with applause during pre-game introductions. During his last trip to the free throw line, Durant even received a chant of “M-V-P” from one fan.
“It feels good,” Durant said. “We came a long way. I remember my first year when we played in Oklahoma, we played these guys here and it wasn't hardly anybody in the stands. So a lot of people coming to support us makes us feel food. I'm excited that people are starting to like us and are starting to like us and come out to see us play.”
Durant on not playing in Madison Square Garden this season — “The Garden is legendary. We always have good games in the Garden.”
Eric Maynor rejoined the team in New Jersey after undergoing season-ending knee surgery earlier in the week in New York…Westbrook received a technical foul in the fourth quarter for arguing about a no-call following a drive to the basket…New Jersey's scoring by quarter in the first three periods was 18, 17 and 16 …The Thunder went 16-for-24 from the free throw line. Durant missed four of his six free throw attempts…The Thunder's 10 blocked shots marked the third time this season that OKC has had at least 10 in a game.
The Thunder will return to Chesapeake Energy Arena to play Detroit on Monday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.