Russell Westbrook signed a three-year, $85.7 million contract extension with Oklahoma City on Thursday. He will remain with the Thunder through at least the 2017-18 season, after which he could become a free agent.
If you thought Kevin Durant would congratulate his former teammate on his new deal, well, you had better think again. Because it didn’t happen.
“It’s very cold,” Oklahoma City sports anchor and reporter Dylan Buckingham said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show, referring to the relationship between Durant and Westbrook. “Basically what (Westbrook) said today for the first time (was) basically I have not talked to him one time. It was one text message after Kevin Durant decided to bolt for Golden State. He found out the same way everyone else did: Players’ Tribune. (He) read the article and that was it. That’s how he found out. He talked to Kevin prior to. He went to dinner with him and tried to convince him to stay. Now there’s conflicting reports about how that whole thing went down. Right now, I’d say it’s icy at best. Kevin Durant in Rio today said he’s not going to offer congrats to Russell Westbrook until things die down. So we’ll see how that goes. But obviously pretty icy at the moment.”
But if you’re Durant, why not just say that you’re happy for the guy and that he deserves it and move on?
“I think he’s trying to be truthful at this point in time,” Buckingham said. “I think there’s been so much that’s gone on between these two in terms of what’s been said in the media, I think the littlest thing could set the other one off and they could just blow the other camps up, if that makes sense. They could blow what they’re saying up and say, ‘That’s completely not true.’ But both these guys, being from Oklahoma City, that organization is very buttoned-up, and both of those guys have a crash course in being classy and not really egging things on for the most part. I think that’s what they’re doing at this point. I think Russell Westbrook is ready to move on, I think Kevin Durant is ready to move on, and I think they’re both focused on basketball. Even Russ said he’s ready to start the season tomorrow so he can go out and compete with this team. He likes the roster they have. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Durant and Westbrook. Honestly, they are not doing any talking. I don’t think there’s any lies about it at all. I think they’re being very truthful that they are not talking to each other right now.”
Buckingham, in fact, believes Durant may have left Oklahoma City because of his rocky relationship with Westbrook.
“Yes, I do,” he said. “And the more that I have found out since Kevin Durant left, the more I feel like it wasn’t as close as people think about him staying. Going into this year, a lot of people in Oklahoma City were of the opinion that Kevin Durant was going to come back at least for one season because it’s one more chance for sure in your career that you get to play with Russell Westbrook and have that on the floor and be what we all thought were title contenders. Looking at it down the line, I was stunned that he left, I was stunned that Westbrook came back and that the roles were reversed with these guys.”
Westbrook, long considered the Robin to Durant’s Batman, will be Batman and then some for Oklahoma City. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Thunder last season and will have to continue his all-around greatness if Oklahoma City wishes to be a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
Westbrook, Buckingham said, seemed “very different” during his press conference Thursday.
“It was about (a) 180 (difference),” he said. “I wonder if part of it had to do with the fact that there was such a public presence at that event, but this is a hero’s welcome for him. This city was crushed when Kevin Durant left. There’s no other way to put it. They were crushed, they were broken-hearted, they were upset, they felt betrayed. And so, with this situation, this was his moment to really take the reins and say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy. This is my team.’ And I think he kind of relished that a little bit.”
Buckingham, however, doesn’t think Westbrook’s cheery disposition will last much longer.
“He’s a very business-first guy, and he’s very, very fierce on the basketball court every single time he’s out there,” he said. “I would imagine that his new persona isn’t going to stay here very long. I think he’ll be more focused (on) basketball and not so much in terms of trying to be happy-go-lucky (during) the season.”