By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Exactly one month to the day after one superstar broke the hearts of Thunder fans by saying goodbye to Oklahoma City another one is mending them by agreeing to stay in OKC.
Russell Westbrook, the Los Angeles native and a guy many thought wanted to return to LA to lead the Lakers back to glory, has instead decided to keep playing in Oklahoma City. He’s expected to sign a 3-year, $85.7 million extension to his current contract Thursday.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting late Wednesday night Westbrook has agreed to the deal.
Westbrook has been in Los Angeles and this week according to several reports he’s been working out with newly acquired Thunder guard Victor Oladipo. Reports also say head coach Billy Donovan has been at these sessions too.
Westbrook is known to be a fan of Oladipo’s game and has also told friends he loves the makeup of the team right now despite Durant’s departure.
Wojnarowski reports Westbrook and his family will fly back to OKC early Thursday and he will officially sign the paperwork. The Thunder are expected to host a news conference to announce the extension.
Westbrook was already immensely popular in Oklahoma City and after what happened with Durant he will be seen as a hero to the franchise and the city now.
Even with the extension Westbrook could become a free agent in the summer of 2018. The third year of the extension includes a player option. By that time Westbrook will be a 10-year veteran and would be eligible (at least under the current collective bargaining agreement) for a so-called “supermax” contract where he would be paid 35 percent of the salary cap.
Early last month when TNT’s David Aldridge quoted sources in Westbrook’s camp as saying he would not agree to an extension. That may very well have been true then because at the time it was believed the salary cap for the 2017-18 season could be as much as $110 million. It would have made more financial sense for Westbrook to go into free agency than to sign an extension.
But a few days later on July 7th when new estimates pegged the cap for 2017-18 at only $102 million the money gap went the other direction. Suddenly it made more financial sense (at least in the short term) to sign a renegotiated extension.