It’s a weird time to be Russell Westbrook. As soon as Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook’s future became an inescapable topic of conversation. As well as speculation about where the Thunder might trade him, there was a report that Durant left partially because of his playing style. Durant denied it, but there were other reasons for Westbrook to be upset. A year before he hits free agency, he is under pressure to decide whether or not he will stay in Oklahoma City long-term.
According to ESPN’s Royce Young, Westbrook isn’t happy about this situation, nor is he pleased with the way that Durant left:
Those close to Westbrook say he’s both angry and hurt not only by Durant’s decision to leave but also because Durant didn’t even call to tell him personally. Westbrook wasn’t prepared to be in this position — three weeks ago, like everyone else, he thought Durant was coming back. And he had to learn the hard way he wasn’t.
Westbrook has remained mum, but he and the Thunder have been in communication often since Durant’s departure. […] And with Durant now gone, Westbrook understands the gravity of his own choice — he leaves, and the organization burns to the ground in a summer. So he wants to give them clarity to either move on with or without him.
Oklahoma City hasn’t done much to its roster this offseason, and ESPN reported that this is because the front office is waiting on Westbrook. The star guard reportedly does not want to be traded, but he hasn’t decided to commit to the organization for the long haul, either. The Thunder’s top priority is renegotiating and extending his contract this summer, which is why they renounced Dion Waiters’ rights, leading to Waiters agreeing to a discount deal with the Miami Heat.
It is not entirely fair that Westbrook is in this position. He’s dealing with the stressful part of free agency — potentially devastating a franchise and a city — but he is not really free because his options are limited. He won’t, for example, be able to make a move to a championship team like Durant did. No contender would realistically be able to acquire him without gutting its roster. Even if Westbrook fully respects Durant’s decision, it would be difficult for him not to be frustrated by the effects of it. And he can’t really be mad at Oklahoma City, as the front office obviously must avoid losing both of them for nothing.
As for the lack of a phone call: That’s a tough one. Durant said that calling the Thunder to deliver the news was the most difficult thing he’s ever done, and he said that he did talk to Westbrook about the decision, at least briefly. You have to wonder how that conversation went and when exactly it took place, but it sounds like Durant could have handled that part of his Oklahoma City exit better.
Courtesy: CBS Sports