Silly Season Starting Early
It would seem the lunatic fringe is out in force already.
If you navigate through various sports websites you're seeing more and more stories wondering whether it's time the Thunder start working on a trade involving Russell Westbrook. (I know, I know).
Afterall, those writers write, with the Thunder continuing to play at a high level without one of the 10 best players in the world why not deal him away and get some other guys? None of which of course are among the 10 best players in the world. (right, yeah, like I said, I know).
We're also already starting to hear talk about the possible free agency of Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, nevermind that his current contract doesn't run out until July, 2016.
The New York Daily News wrote the latest Durant piece saying the Nets and their Russian billionaire owner would be willing to open the bank vault for KD. Of course the Thunder play the Nets tonight and I suppose that's what prompted the Daily News to jump into the Durant free agency pool a tad early.
First, let me say any and all talk of trading Russ right now is nuts.
Maybe at some point in the future if the Thunder believe they have no hope of extending either of their stars then maybe we can start having that conversation.
Westbrook's current contract runs through the 2016-17 season, a year longer than Durant's, since Westbrook signed his extension a year later.
Most of the Durant stories revolve around the small market that is OKC versus the glitz and bright lights of somewhere else on say the east coast or the west coast.
Since KD's represented now by Jay-Z, who had a part ownership in the Nets for a while, the dots are being connected in that direction.
For Thunder fans the problem with all the Durant talk is that it won't be going away and it will actually get louder.
It will grow to a roar if the Thunder don't win an NBA title this season or next, the pundits will write that Durant wants to win and that he apparently can't in Oklahoma City because the town is too small and owners are too cheap.
Well let me say this about that. The size of the city doesn't matter, in fact Durant has always said he loves the atmosphere in OKC and loyalty of the fans, the laid back ways of the Heartland.
He said it again just yesterday on Spike Lee's radio show in New York.
"I love playing there (OKC), the city fits me. I'm one of those guys that just likes to chill. That's exactly how the town is. The people are supportive. The fans are there all the time, every game is a sellout. They support us so much."
So, sounds like KD still loves him some OKC.
And afterall he's only a quick private jet flight away from where ever in the world he'd lang to hangout for a while.
You can't say Oklahoma City is limiting his basketball payday, the Thunder are paying him as much as the current collective bargaining agreement allows.
You can't say it's limiting his marketing and commercial appeal either because he's one of the most sought after endorsers in the world.
As far as cheap owners are concerned Im not buying that one either. The Thunder have been making loads of cash while they've been in Oklahoma City and Forbes Magazine now ranks the Thunder as the 11th most valuable franchise in the NBA worth approximately $590 million. That's $240 million more than the ownership group paid for the franchise.
The Thunder organization made $33 million in profits last year according to Forbes.
Most national writers perceive the Thunder ownership to be cheap because they traded James Harden to Houston rather than jump into the luxury tax.
What they fail to remember is the last contract the Thunder offered Harden would have put the team deep into the tax. The reason Harden was traded was because the Thunder knew he didn't want to stay.
He wanted to be "the man" somewhere else, not the sixth man in Oklahoma City.
So the Thunder did the deal and got who they could get for him. Turns out Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams, who are both here as a reasult of the Harden trade, have turned into pretty good players.
When it comes to Durant, make no mistake, the Thunder will offer the biggest and best contract they'll be allowed to offer under the current collective bargaining agreement. That contract will have the more guaranteed money than any other team will be able to offer.
The Thunder management also knows they can't avoid the luxury tax forever and have been positioning to be able to handle it going forward.
Most of those big profits the team has pocketed over the last few season haven't gone into the owner's pockets. The owners don't need the Thunder to make them money. Those profits will be used to bankroll the Thunder's trip into tax territory.
So the money will be spent when it needs to be spent.
Cash won't likely sway Durant one way or the other. It will be the ability to win championships and how committed he believes any organization is to winning them.
If the Thunder can win one this season, and or next, Durant more than likely will stay to see how many more he and his teammates can gather up.
If not, then fans and owners may have something to worry about. Fans will only be able to wring their hands and wonder while the owners will have to get busy to prove to Durant they are commited to winning and doing whatever they can to accomplish that goal.
Between now and then the stories will just keep on coming, so get ready.
Welcome to the big leagues.