On the first day that NBA front office executives were allowed to resume communication with player agents, Thunder general manager Sam Presti began preliminary discussions with Russell Westbrook's agents on a contact extension.
Westbrook is now eligible to receive an extension to his rookie scale contract after playing three seasons. A potential deal cannot be signed until Dec. 9, when the free-agent signing period officially begins. But a new deal would not take effect until the 2012-13 season.
“We made calls to all kinds of (representatives of) free agents, as well as our own players to touch base and talk about whatever issues we need to cover with each player respectively,” Presti said Wednesday night at a Thunder fit clinic at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in southeast Oklahoma City.
“Everybody knows how we feel about Russell Westbrook as a person and as a player, and we're looking forward to having those conversations at the appropriate time.”
Because the NBA has yet to finalize a new collective bargaining agreement, uncertainty remains over what Westbrook's deal might look like. Under the previous CBA, players entering their fourth season were eligible to re-sign for up to five seasons. The new rules, however, could limit Westbrook to a four-year extension beyond the 2011-12 season.
It's also unclear when the Thunder's deadline is to come to terms with Westbrook. Previously, teams had until Oct. 31 to reach an agreement or the player would become a restricted free agent the following summer. The league has not said what this year's deadline will be.
The cloud of uncertainty could delay a deal. Unlike last summer, when the Thunder agreed to a maximum-salary extension with Kevin Durant at the stroke of midnight when free agency opened on July 1, agents and GMs are likely to spend time absorbing the altered system. With the season slated to start Dec. 25, however, teams won't have much time to study the new rules before making final decisions.
“A lot of this is brand new to us,” Presti said. “The last 24 hours has been a little bit of a scramble. We have a lot of things that we have to do from getting players in to just basically preparing ourselves for what's ahead. The good thing is that everybody's in the same situation. We've done everything we can do from a basketball operations standpoint to prepare for when this day would come.”
The Thunder must also make a decision on whether to re-sign restricted free agent Daequan Cook. Both sides have expressed interest in getting a deal done.
“Daequan's a player that we had with us last year, and we're going to have conversations with his representatives,” Presti said. “He's earned the right to be a free agent, and we're going to work through that process with him and understand what's there.”
If the Thunder decides not to bring Cook back, it would open a roster spot to lure another free agent. Oklahoma City also could buyout guard Nate Robinson. USA Today reported Wednesday that the two sides already were working on a buyout. Presti, however, declined to confirm or deny the report.
“We don't ever engage in rumors and speculation,” Presti said. “Nate's a part of the organization. In regards to anything that's been reported, we never comment on those things.”