By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Welcome to the real world Thunder fans as you dust the ashes of that Kevin Durant jersey you burned yesterday from your clothes.
And for those of you still thinking of doing that please don’t. It just makes you look petty and silly. Remember after all Durant gave you all he had for these last nine years and donated vast amounts of his money and his time to our city and our state.
That should be applauded and respected.
Having said that, he has left his now former teammates and his now former organization and his now former fan base in a tough spot.
So if you can’t bear the sight of that Thunder jersey of his anymore try to sell it on eBay and maybe recoup a little cash or donate it to the City Rescue Mission or do as one Thunder fan did and take some masking tape, cover up the numeral 3 in that 35 leaving the numeral 5 and take another strip of tape, cover up “Durant” on the back of that jersey and the write “Oladipo” in its place.
Wah-lah all of a sudden you have a nifty (though somewhat homemade) Victor Oladipo jersey.
Now that you’ve adjusted your wardrobe what the heck do Clay Bennett, Sam Presti and the Thunder do now?
According to David Aldridge of TNT league sources told him the Thunder had already reached out to superstar point guard Russell Westbrook, who’ll be a free agent this time next year, asking if he’d be open to renegotiating and extending his current contract.
The answer according to those sources was an “emphatic no.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Westbrook wants to follow Durant out of the town. Extending his current contract would cost him millions of dollars but Presti needs to get a solid read on what “The Brodie’s” plans are.
“I have not personally talked to Russell.” Presti told reporters Monday night. “We've communicated through texts and then several of our staff members have talked with him.”
But Presti wouldn’t reveal what was said and wouldn’t speculate as to specifically how the Thunder would move forward with Westbrook or anyone else.
“Obviously we have a lot of different scenarios that we plan for under these circumstances,” Presti said. “We're going to take a step back, look at those carefully and try to make quality, thoughtful decisions. We've never been impulsive. We've never been reactionary. We've never been careless with putting this franchise in the best possible position to be strong and be healthy and be competitive.”
In fact the roster Presti had built and the recent additions of Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis in the Serge Ibaka trade was probably going to be the best collection of talent the organization had ever had.
Still it wasn’t enough to entice Durant to stay and if Presti can’t get assurances from Westbrook that he will commit long term then the only real option is trading away the team’s last cornerstone.
The Thunder were just a handful of minutes away from beating Golden State in the Western Conference Finals and making another trip to the top of the top of the NBA mountain, now ironically because both Durant and Westbrook suffered uncharacteristic meltdowns in those last minutes the Thunder may be heading the other direction toward a deep valley of uncertainty though Presti vows to do all he can to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“We're not going to be deterred. We're going to continue to advance, and we've always taken the approach of things are more new beginnings than endings,” he said. “And there's a new beginning here for the Thunder. We have to embrace that, and we have to lean into that. None of us were under the illusion that Kevin Durant would be here forever.”
And if anyone was that illusion has melted away into a stark reality.