Conventional wisdom said that Russell Westbrook would re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder a year from now as long as Kevin Durant didn’t spurn his long-time team in free agency this summer. Now that the 2014 MVP has left the Thunder for their victorious Western Conference Finals foes, though, there’s no longer any consensus expectation on Westbrook’s future.
He could be traded before the February deadline, become the sole face of the franchise by re-upping with Oklahoma City on a five-year deal, or walk to another team that has more realistic title aspirations than the Thunder. There’s no way to tell right now what the Westbrook-related fallout from Durant’s shocking decision will be.
But according to a league executive who talked to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, Westbrook’s mind is already made up with regard to his first foray into unrestricted free agency – and was even before the other half of Oklahoma City’s superstar tandem left for the Bay Area.
“[Westbrook] gone after this year,” said one league executive. “A hundred percent. I think that’s the case no matter what (Durant had decided). I guess people can always change their mind, but I think this season was going to be it for him there no matter what.”
Since news broke of Durant’s plans on Monday, anonymous sources close to the Golden State Warriors’ newest star have been alluding to on-court friction between he and Westbrook as partial justification for his departure. The Herald learned the same, and suggests that Westbrook, too, was not long for the Thunder due to the pair’s incessant and inevitable clashes when it comes to playing identity.
Knowledge of the complicated relationship between Durant and Westbrook is hardly new; it’s been surmised for years. What’s headline-worthy is the notion that both All-NBA performers have come to realize separating would be the best option for their careers going forward.
Durant is gone. Will Westbrook be next to follow? If the Thunder don’t trade him before July 1, 2017, it seems they may be in for even more free agency disappointment soon.