Presti offers Westbrook news, but not about contract

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook prepares to shoot against Denver last April. The Thunder and their fans are still hoping he'll sign a new contract by the league's Oct. 16 deadline.

OKLAHOMA CITY — In his day-before-media-day and two-days-before-training-camp-begins press conference, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti broke some news about his star player, but it wasn't the news he wanted to break.

No, Russell Westbrook has not signed the five-year, more-than $200 million extension. By league rule, it would have to happen by Oct. 16. If it doesn't, the drama would unfold again when Westbrook becomes a free agent on July 1, 2018.

It's the largest contract Presti and the Thunder can offer, and no other team can offer the same combination of that much money and that many years.

Instead, the only real development concerning Westbrook in Friday's news conference is that he had a platelet-rich plasma injection in the patellar tendon of his right knee, which means he'll miss a few days of training camp.

Before anyone could ask, Presti assured it was unrelated to any past injuries and not serious.

“It wasn't something that lingered through the year,” he said. “We'll work him back in as we get through camp and see how he's doing, but he'll play in some preseason games.”

While that's not too concerning, it will be hard for Thunder fans to feel the same way about having their star player locked up for only one season.

Two years ago, Presti answered similar questions about then-Thunder star Kevin Durant. Oklahoma City, not just the organization but its fans, were optimistic Durant would be back. He had embraced the community, won an MVP award and and been with the franchise from the start. 

Sound familiar?

Presti is left to let the process play out.

“We're going to have that offer on the table as long as it's permitted to be there,” he said.

Presti hopes it won't become a distraction. It wasn't when Durant and Westbrook led the Thunder to the 2016 Western Conference Finals.

“Obviously we had our best season in probably franchise history,” Presti said. “That doesn't happen without everybody in the building kind of pulling together, understanding what we have to do as professionals, kind of blocking out the noise within the building and doing our job.”

• Durant's tweeting: Earlier this week, Durant slammed the organization and some of his former teammates, while appearing to try to defend himself from critics using a fake Twitter account.

On Sunday, someone tweeted at Durant, “Give me one legitimate reason for leaving OKC other than getting a championship.”

Durant responded with two messages in the third person that looked like they were supposed to be sent from a different account than his official one.

They included quotes such as, “Imagine taking russ of that team, see how bad they were. KD can't win a championship with those cats” and “He didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan.”

Durant has offered remorse since, even telling USA Today he went days without sleeping or eating.

Friday, Presti said Durant had not reached out to him or, to his knowledge, anyone in the Thunder organization. Although, he added, “I'm not asking people that question.”

“No one from the Thunder really has anything negative to say about Kevin Durant,” Presti said. “We've been hopefully very open about the fact that we have tremendous appreciation and respect for what he and his teammates and coaches and everybody over his tenure here accomplished.”

• Nothing decided on Kanter: Presti is still not sure whether the Thunder will have center Enes Kanter for the Dec. 7 game against the Brooklyn Nets in Mexico City.

The Turkish government revoked Kanter's passport while he was on a flight to Bucharest, Romania in May, an apparent response to Kanter being vocally critical president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Kanter was able to return to the United States, but his ability to travel outside the U.S. remains in limbo.

“I can tell you that the NBA has been great, and they understand how important it is that we have these things taken care of, if they can be taken care of,” Presti said. “I don't want to speak to an end point because there's a lot of time … between now and then. But we're certainly hopeful that everything will be taken care of."

John McKelvey


Follow me @john_mckelvey

Recommended for you