On Thursday afternoon, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder reached a crucial three-year $85.7 million extension. Westbrook's timely accord alleviates much of the uncertainty surrounding OKC's future following Kevin Durant's sudden departure.
As Westbrook returns, so too does the prospect of upward potential for the 2016 Western Conference Finalists. Pursuant to the five-time All Star's re-signing, a major press-conference was held at Chesapeake Energy Arena to usher in a new era of Thunder basketball.
In addition to Westbrook, Oklahoma City General Manager Sam Presti was on hand for Thursday's revelries. Presti's shrewd off-season personnel maneuvers ensured requisite cap space would be available for a successful run at his star guard.
Throughout the hour-long presser, Westbrook and Presti offered insightful opinions regarding a number of important topics. Of the questions addressed, none loomed larger than Westrook's strained relationship with former franchise cornerstone Kevin Durant.
Here are select excerpts from the mostly convivial proceedings.
Sam Presti opened by expressing the monumental nature of having Westbrook back in Oklahoma City :
"And Before I pass it over to Russell, the thing I just want to stress and say is, obviously an incredible opportunity to have a player like Russell Westbrook in your organization, not just as a player, we've all seen that evolution, but also has a human being and a leader. He's I think become synonymous with the Thunder but also the city and the spirit of the city. We're just overjoyed that he's going to continue his career and his legacy with the Thunder. It's a wonderful day for the city, a great day for his family, and we should celebrate it."
The man of the hour, Russell Westbrook then responded with formal thanks for his family, friends and Thunder organization.
"Obviously me being able to come back here is a true blessing. There is nowhere else I'd rather be than Oklahoma City. You guys have basically kind of raised me. I've been here since I was 18, 19 years old. You did nothing but great things for me. Through the good and the bad you supported me through it all. I appreciate it. Definitely want the opportunity to be loyal to you guys. Thank you, guys. I appreciate everything."
The conversation's focus then hinted at, but didn't yet completely broach the major elephant in the room -- Westbrook's strained relationship with Kevin Durant. The 2015 scoring champ alluded briefly to Durant, but kept his focus on teammates, fans and the Thunder organization.
"Obviously with Kevin going, it opened up a few things for me in different ways. Me being able to see the team we have, the guys we have, the fans, the support, I felt like this is the best place for me and the best team. I love being here. This is the place I wanted to be."
Westbrook further elaborated upon the affinity he holds for his new teammates, while answering direct queries concerning the brevity of his re-signing:
"There's no need to wait if you know where you want to be. There's no need to waste time. I'm a straightforward type of guy. I shoot you straight. No need to go back and forth and try to figure out any other options, create this hoopla, rumors and all this stuff. This is where I want to be, and that's what I made the decision based on."
"It really comes down to being around the guys and the people in the organization. I love my teammates. They go to battle every single night. The group of guys we have, I'm looking forward to playing with them, continue great things for Oklahoma City."
Following this response, the elephant in the room then reverberated with stampeding force. Regarding his current feelings toward Durant, Westbrook stated:
"We've been together eight years. You don't throw that away. Obviously he's now with a new team. But we definitely will talk eventually. But obviously now we haven't."
Westbrook then told media of the back-handed nature in which he learnt of Durant's defection:
"Like y'all found out, on the news, on the cell phones, the social media. I talked to Kevin early on in the process. But nothing after. Just a text message from him, that's about it."
When asked if Durant's agreement with Golden State stung, Westbrook heartily quipped:
"Sting for who?"
Finally, the Durant questions concluded with Russell's commentary regarding K.D.'s free-agency thought process and Westbrook's new role as unquestioned team leader:
"Listen, I understand free agency. I understand having the opportunity to go where we need to go. But once that happened, I told Sam, What's next? To me, that's just my mentality: what's the next thing we need to do to help our team win. That's all I'm worried about is to find ways to come in and figure out ways to make the team become a great organization. Honestly, I play the same way every single night regardless if I'm the guy, if I'm the next guy, if I'm the guy in the spotlight. That's just who I am."
Westbrook then sung the praises of Head Coach Billy Donovan:
"Coach has been great through the whole process. He's been great since he's been here of helping me become a better player and a better person, as well. He definitely was out in L.A. to come out and support. That's the type of thing he does that goes unnoticed. That's what makes him a great coach."
Following those remarks, focus shifted toward Sam Presti and the general direction of Thunder basketball:
"I think we'll take a hard look at what the team looks like during the season. From a roster standpoint, my conversations with Russell, one thing I think you look at the team, there's a certain element of toughness. I think there's a certain edge to the team. We're probably not going to do it like everybody else... I think that's one of the reasons why we've really owned our own success, is because we haven't necessarily modeled ourselves after anybody or followed a certain playbook because that's the way everybody else has done it."
Westbrook then wholeheartedly expressed his appreciation and affinity for the people of Oklahoma City:
"I love where I live. People ask me all the time, Why do you love Oklahoma City? I say, The people. You guys are the nicest people I've ever been around. I'm not just saying that because I'm here. Just to be able to be around and walk around. Everywhere I walk around, nobody has never said anything to me negatively. Everything is always positive. Always great encouragement. That's what I like to be around. I like to be where I'm loved."
In summation of the All-NBA guard's re-signing, Westbrook and Presti concluded by stating:
Westbrook: "Me being able to have an opportunity to be able to extend and be here, that's what I wanted to do. I stand behind that... My job is to be able to find somewhere that I want to be and want to play with a group of guys. I figured this is the place where I want to be."
Presti: "When he's saying, What's next? He's thinking, How do we get better? To me, that was an indication of, like, it wasn't an inquiry, it was a unification. So that was right when we started talking about there is one option that we can look at. I knew it would come as kind of a surprise to him because it wasn't something that any of us had ever talked about."
To read the Russell Westbrook presser transcript in its entirety visit ASAP Sports.