The NBA has set a deadline of Jan. 25 for teams to come to terms on contract extensions for players entering their fourth seasons.
It gives the Oklahoma City Thunder slightly more than six weeks to hammer out an extension for All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. If no deal is reached by then, Westbrook will become a restricted free agent next summer, meaning the Thunder would have the right to retain him by matching any offer he might receive.
Westbrook and Thunder management, however, have both expressed their desire to get a deal done, and negotiations are not expected to spill into next summer.
Under new collective bargaining rules, Westbrook is eligible for a four-year extension that would kick in at the start of the 2012-13 season. The new rules, though, allow teams to designate one player who is eligible for a five-year extension at the maximum salary, which would be 25 percent of the salary cap. But Westbrook could be eligible to earn up to 30 percent of the salary cap if he is named to one of three All-NBA teams this season.
Before the lockout, teams had until Oct. 31 to extend rookie contracts before players would hit the market as restricted free agents in the following summer. The league will revert to the Oct. 31 deadline next season, when Thunder players James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor and Byron Mullens will be up for extensions.
PLAYERS IMPRESSED WITH PRACTICE FACILITY
Thunder players returned to a new practice facility after three seasons in a temporary location and were blown away with their new digs.
“This is probably the best one in all of sports,” said Westbrook. “You can pretty much sleep here if you want. They did a good job of giving us everything we want.”
Oklahoma City residents funded the facility on Britton Road just east of Broadway Extension through a 1-cent sales tax. The Thunder players were clearly appreciative.
“It's a blessing, man, to have such great resources here,” said Kevin Durant. “They make us better players. They care so much about our progression as players. It's a big-time facility.”
COLLISON HEALTHY AND HAPPY
Forward Nick Collison entered training camp this season the healthiest he has been since coming to Oklahoma City.
Collison dealt with nagging injuries to various parts of his body, including his knees, in each of the past two seasons.
“I feel really good,” Collison said. “I missed the last two years of camp. To have a short camp may be a disadvantage, but I'm further along than I've been the last couple of years, so I feel really good. My knees feel good. I just have a little respiratory cold type thing I'm dealing with. But other than that, my body feels good.”
CONTRACT BRINGS COOK MORE CONFIDENCE
After signing a two-year contract extension, shooting guard Daequan Cook joined the team for the second day of practice Saturday. The sharpshooter said it was a relief to get the deal done and know that he will remain with the franchise.
“I feel a lot better now,” Cook said. “I'm glad to be back out here on the court now.”
The Thunder rewarded Cook with a $6.5 million deal after he connected on a career high 42.2 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point line. That show of respect and level of commitment by the team, Cook said, will only build his confidence.
“That's big, coming from a shooter like myself,” Cook said. “Not just the team but the organization having confidence in me (helps) going out there knowing that; and just shooting every shot as I always do, as if it's going in.”
The Thunder has two players who played college ball at Kansas (Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich) and two at Ohio State (Daequan Cook and Byron Mullens). The Jayhawks and Buckeyes happened to play each other Saturday afternoon at KU.
After Saturday's morning practice, Cook confirmed a wager was placed between the two parties. Asked what was wagered, Cook smiled and said, “Push-ups. We bet push-ups.”
Exactly how many “push-ups” was not known, but the No 13 Jayhawks posted a 78-67 victory over the No. 2 Buckeyes.
Former Air Force and University of San Diego coach Hank Egan, who also has been an NBA assistant with the Cavaliers, Warriors and Spurs, has observed the first two days of Thunder training camp.
On Saturday, he was joined by Kurt Rambis, the former Los Angeles Lakers player and Minnesota Timberwolves coach. Rambis won eight world championships with the Lakers — four as a player, two as an executive and two as an assistant under Phil Jackson.
Former Thunder reserve guard Nate Robinson (@nate_robinson) is back home in Seattle trying to work out a deal with an NBA team and tweeted this on Saturday: “GM y'all hope u guys have a wonderful day.”
Durant on his new Nike commercial: “Everybody said they like that commercial. It's good for the game of basketball, I guess, and it shows kind of what my summer was like; going around playing everywhere and just having fun.”