The NBA has informed teams that players will be permitted to use team facilities on Thursday, while front office executives can resume communication with players’ agents on Wednesday.
Players haven’t had access to their teams’ facilities since the NBA lockout began on July 1. Front office executives have been prohibited from all contact with players and their agents during that time as well.
According to the Associated Press, owners, general managers and coaches also can resume commenting publicly about their players and other typical team-related matters.
What does it all mean for the Thunder?
First and foremost, starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, GM Sam Presti can roll up his sleeves and start negotiating Russell Westbrook’s ultra-important contract extension. But because a new collective bargaining agreement has not been ratified, teams cannot finalize contracts until the free-agent signing period begins on Dec. 9, which also is the start date for training camps.
Westbrook, a first-time All-Star and All-NBA Second Team selection last season, will become a restricted free agent next summer if the two sides are unable to reach a deal. The Thunder would then have the right to match any offer Westbrook might receive from another team. But it appears likely the Thunder will try to quickly lock up Westbrook, who has exploded onto the NBA landscape as one of the league’s elite point guards at only 23 years old.
The Thunder also can start the similar process of re-signing shooting guard Daequan Cook, who is a restricted free agent but has repeatedly expressed his desire to remain in OKC.
Meanwhile, with team facilities set to re-open to players on Thursday, the majority of the Thunder’s roster will soon get its first peak at the taxpayer-funded training center that sits just east of Broadway Extension off Britton Road. Thunder forward Kevin Durant is one of the few players who have seen the state-of-the-art building. He visited with rookie Reggie Jackson while construction was ongoing in late June, just days before the league locked out its players.
“It’s way bigger,” Durant said in August. “You can get lost in there. Our locker room is crazy. It’s like our locker room at the arena. They’ve got all these hot and cold tubs. And we’re supposed to have a 30-yard turf field in the back. It’s nice.”
The league is opening its doors to players eight days prior to the start of camps to allow players to prepare for what will be an abbreviated training camp and a shrunken preseason schedule to make way for a 66-game regular season starting on Dec. 25.
Coaches and front office executives will not be allowed in the gym with players at the practice facility, according to reports. Yahoo! Sports reports trainers and strength coaches can assist but cannot supervise.
The early admission into team facilities could help curtail the possibility of injuries in the hurried start to the season.