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.
Westbrook also could have demanded an opt-out clause in his contract, the chance to shorten it to three years, which is what LeBron James did in Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony did in Denver and Chris Paul did in New Orleans.
No opt-out for Westbrook. The full five years give the Thunder a much-bigger window.
Westbrook appeared to make a commitment to winning. To the Thunder and to OKC, yes. But to winning. Not to glamour of a market or status as an Alpha dog.
Westbrook chose that window of opportunity. In spring 2016, Durant and Westbrook will each be 27. Still in their prime.
“When Russell showed up, he and Kevin were part of the first (Thunder) roster that ever played in Oklahoma City,” said general manager Sam Presti. “When I say these guys have built our culture, established the standards that are in place, I mean that.
“Their work ethic, their approach, has worked for us. They have some ownership in it.”
The Selfish Westbrook Theory took a major hit with this contract. He could have gone somewhere and been the main man. Instead, he willingly signed on to stick with Butch Cassidy, and what a pair Durant and Westbrook make. Westbrook-to-Durant led all NBA tandems in assists-on-field goals.
Durant and Westbrook just keep getting better and better. Presti has done what great general managers do. He isn't paying big bucks for what these guys have done; he's paying big bucks for what they will do.
More plays like Wednesday night in Washington. Westbrook dribbled past halfcourt, with his Thunder teammates on their horse, and whipped a pass to Durant.
Not just a pass. A left-handed pass. A left-handed bounce pass. A left-handed bounce pass that must have traveled 22 feet.
Durant speared the ball on the dead run just past a Wizard or two, then slammed it home. Maybe my favorite play in four Thunder seasons. A supposedly shoot-first point guard making a jaw-dropping pass through a sliver of a window.
Nothing at all like the massive window that now awaits the Thunder. Five prime seasons to bring a parade to the Bricktown Canal.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.