Russell Westbrook and the Thunder dotted the i’s on a contract extension for three years and just over $85 million. This locks Westbrook up until the summer of 2018, at which point he can opt out of the contract for the following season and, with 10 years of service to Oklahoma City, will be eligible to receive a max contract that starts at 35 percent of the salary cap. So obviously Westbrook is a winner, because money. But who are the other winners? And more importantly, who are the losers?
Winner: Oklahoma City, Obviously
Though they fell flat on their faces at the finish line in the Western Conference finals last season, the outlook on the Thunder’s upcoming season was generally positive. They were the best team in the playoffs, they were right there, and they were going to re-up and get right back there again. Everything was going to be hunky and dory and Donner and Blitzen. Right up until Kevin Durant, as a man, decided, as a man, to open the next chapter of his career, as a man, with the Golden State Warriors.
… As a man.
With Westbrook’s signature, suddenly things are a lot less grim and hopeless than they were in the immediate aftermath of KD’s exit. The Thunder aren’t going to reach the heights that they did last season, but at the very least, they didn’t lose all of their All-NBA talent in a single summer. A Westbrook-Victor Oladipo backcourt is infinitely better than a would-be Cameron Payne–Victor Oladipo backcourt. A Westbrook-Oladipo-Steven Adams core sounds downright playoff-eligible.
Winner: Us. All of Us.
So, remember when Durant was out for months after successive foot surgeries and Russ went full pre-crisis Superman, piling up triple-doubles at a rate unseen since Michael Jordan’s heyday? Remember when he dented his face like a ping-pong ball drawing a foul and was only mildly inconvenienced by it, knocking down the ensuing free throws all casual like? REMEMBER WHEN HE DONNED A MASK AFTER THAT AND WAS BOTH PRE-CRISIS SUPERMAN AND GRANT MORRISON’S BATMAN AT THE SAME TIME?
We’re going to get to watch a full season of this now. Good luck to anyone else who had MVP machinations this year.
Winner: Russ’s Future OKC Restaurant
In addition to locals taking pistols and shotguns to his jersey (uh huh, really), part of the fallout from Durant’s departure was the closure of Durant’s signature restaurant, KD’s, only three weeks after he announced his decision to bolt for Silicon Valley.
This leaves room for a certain other Thunder star to enter the market.
But instead of some cozy, family-friendly, Southern-style Cheesecake Factory knockoff with something to please everyone, “#WHYNOT?” is going to alternate between Lil Uzi Vert and Taylor Swift at all hours of the day. And they’re only going to serve stuff that Russ likes to eat, like PBJs with buttered wheat toast, strawberry jelly, and Skippy peanut butter, eggs cooked “regular with cheese,” and “burrito bacon cheeseburger.”
There’s going to be a dress code too, but instead of a bunch of stipulations like “no backward hats” or “business casual,” there’s just going to be a massive golden plaque on the foyer wall — designed by Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci — that says, “NO BROKE SHIT.”
Loser: Kevin Durant
There were, of course, big, jingling financial incentives to him staying put, but this is what everybody is going to see and remember: Russell Westbrook held OKC down when Kevin Durant left it in the lurch. Even if it’s really only one extra year of commitment, Russ agreeing to an extension pushes Durant — who, again, joined the Warriors, who won 73 regular-season games last season — firmly into the bright-red Marlo Stanfield area of the villain spectrum. Durant is immediately less noble than his former teammate, which also opens the scope of Russ fandom, beyond people (like me) who don’t care how many shots he takes per game and religiously check his Snapchat stories, to even the most casual NBA fans, who only watch games if they’re on ABC.
In short, Russell Westbrook rules and Kevin Durant drools, in grade school recess parlance. Also, I envision their reunion playing out a little something like this.
Loser: The Lakers
While the tea leaves had been suggesting Russ would stay and sign an extension for weeks now, there was still the possibility that he might enter the free-agency waters and want to return home to Los Angeles. This was exciting news for the Lakers, who currently don’t have anywhere near enough milk for their cereal and could’ve used at least one NBA-caliber starter on their roster.
But they’ve waited this long; they can wait a little longer.
Loser: Rims. And Backboards, by Association.
Russell Westbrook already plays crazy stupid dumb hard, like every game is a game in the park where you have to shoot to see who gets ball first, like every basket counts as only one point. There are times that I’m certain he doesn’t even know what the score is — he just likes punking people and ruining lives.
But Russell Westbrook, out for revenge? That’s a whole other thing entirely.
Stay safe out there, everyone.