The Oklahoma City Thunder announced today that Russell Westbrook has signed a five year maximum contract extension worth about $80 million, or 25% of the team's salary cap. Adrian Wojnarowski first broke the story on Twitter, which we reported here (Woj originally reported the number was $78 million). GM Sam Presti finalized the deal with Westbrook's agent, Thad Foucher, and the organization plans to hold a press conference on Sunday when the team returns from its current road trip. The team had until January 25th to finalize the deal, lest Westbrook become a restricted free agent.
The Thunder issued a press release today, and Presti has this to say:
"We are thrilled to solidify Russell's future with the Thunder," said Presti. "Since we arrived in Oklahoma City, Russell's work ethic, persistence, character, and involvement in our community have helped us establish the standards that we are committed to on a day-to-day basis. He is a valued member of our organization and we look forward to his continued contributions on and off the floor."
Chairman and CEO Clay Bennett had this to add:
"We are very excited that Russell will continue to be a part of the Thunder organization," said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Clay Bennett. "He has demonstrated high personal character, a strong commitment to his teammates and a remarkable dedication to the development of his performance as a player. We especially value his role in the community as he has consistently represented "Oklahoma City Basketball" with pride and integrity."
The contract extension means that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be setting their sites on the NBA title together for the foreseeable future. It is also being reported that Westbrook does not have a 4th year opt-out clause, which means that he is committed through the 2016-17 season.
From a competitive standpoint, Berry Tramel writes:
And you wonder if this extension can only accelerate Westbrook's improvement, which has been amazing in its own right. Westbrook never has seemed to be driven by money or security. He seems driven by never having been considered a star. Lightly recruited out of high school. Not one of the marquee players on his UCLA team. Doubted by many as an NBA point guard EVEN WHILE HE WAS PLAYING A MEAN GAME OF NBA POINT GUARD. If that dime-store analysis is correct, then Westbrook doesn't figure to go soft.
For one thing, he's in a culture - which he helped create - that demands accountability. The Thunder really isn't conducive to superstars who want to act big time or take it easy. Kevin Durant is that way, Westbrook has been that way.
From a salary cap standpoint, Westbrook found himself in an unusual place with the new CBA rules, because he is the rare player who can actually satisfy the mosiac of CBA requirements in order to receive a pay bump if he manages to make All-NBA first, second, or third team (he made 2nd team last year). As we saw in the preliminary CBA deal summary:
Max salary calculation remains the same as in the old CBA, with one exception. Any player in his 5th year is eligible to receive a max contract from his team of up to 30% (up from 25%) of the overall salary cap as long as he has accomplished one of three things: 1) he's made an All-NBA team (any level) twice; OR, 2) he's been named league MVP (Derrick Rose); OR 3) he has been voted in as an All-Star starter twice.
Of course, we saw Kevin Durant satisfy these requirements and get the 5% pay bump via the new CBA retroactively (thus making him the actual first recipient of the Rose Rule), so the Thunder already have one 30% player. Is it even contractually possible to have a second 30% player?
In order to get this question answered, I turned to our friend Tim Donahue at 8 Points, 9 Seconds. If you recall, Donahue was instrumental in bringing forth a number of comprehensive ideas via his own site as well as in his collaboration with Larry Coon during the lockout, which greatly helped clarify the CBA situation. Tim says:
By giving Westbrook a 5-year 25% extension, they've "designated" him. Therefore, they cannot designate any more players while that contract is in effect and on their roster. (They can also only acquire one by trade.)
However, the "designated rookie" rule and the "Rose Rule" are two different things. There is no limit on the number of "Rose Rule" players on a roster, so, yes, if Westbrook qualifies, then both he and Durant can get the 5th year 30% max.
Now, whether he gets the 30% or not is dependent on the wording in the contract.
In order to "designate" a player, you have to give him the 5-year, 25% max contract, so there is a monetary aspect. In other words, the Pacers couldn't "designate" Roy Hibbert, then give him a 5-year/$50mm deal. It would have to be 5/$79mm (or the Westbrook contract).
Because of the way the new CBA language is worded, you can see that while the player designation and the 30% max are paired together, they can be de-coupled, and the Thunder's contract situation with Durant and Westbrook would allow for it. Durant's contract was signed before the new CBA, so he received the five year extension without consuming the player "designation." This left the "designation" option on the table for Westbrook to scoop up, so now he too can be a five year player eligible for the 30% maximum. The Thunder would have two players on their team that could take up 60% of their salary cap.
So what happened?
Westbrook said, "No."
According to all reports that have come out, Westbrook chose not to pursue the "Rose Rule" bump. Says Darnell Mayberry via Twitter:
"The contract also is locked in at the maximum 25% of the cap, not the "Derrick Rose" max of 30%"
All Westbrook would need to do to qualify for a Rose Rule bump was to make All-NBA first, second, or third team. Unless he were to get hurt this season, the chances of that happening are extremely high. The opportunity was there, and Westbrook pushed his chair away from the table and said, "That's good for me."
By leaving money on the table, the Thunder now have greater capacity to re-sign James Harden and Serge Ibaka, both of whom have contract extensions coming up in the 2013 season. The Thunder will need both of those players if they are continue their championship pursuits.
Westbrook put his organization first, his team leader first, and enabled his teammates to follow him. There are millions of reasons he could have chosen to do otherwise. Why nott?
Because Russell Westbrook is not who you think he is, and he just proved it.