OKLAHOMA CITY — All-Star forward Paul George said Saturday that Russell Westbrook‘s five-year extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder will “absolutely” factor into his decision on his own future next summer.
“We’ve been on an unbelievable start right now, and for him to be committed here, it says a lot,” George said. “Not only in us pairing together, but just knowing what type of dude Russ is and his values and his beliefs and him being committed to this organization says a lot. And I’m one person that’s enjoying it here, so I think when that time comes, the decision will be easier to make for myself.”
On Friday, Westbrook, the reigning MVP, inked the largest deal in NBA history: a five-year extension on his current contract worth $205 million.
“From the commitment from the front office all the way down to Russ, the commitment here is off the charts,” George said.
George will hit unrestricted free agency next summer, and there is plenty of buzz circulating around the league about where he’ll end up. Many presume he has an eye on his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder traded for George hours before free agency opened last July, knowing his future was uncertain. George said in July when he was introduced that maybe he would make a decision in concert with Westbrook next summer, but that scenario is now off the board with Westbrook’s extension already done. George said he wasn’t surprised Westbrook committed early.
“I had a feeling he wanted to remain a Thunder,” George said. “But again, you let guys deal with their situations, and that’s what it was. He had to make his decision.”
Westbrook signed an extension last summer in the wake of Kevin Durant‘s departure to the Golden State Warriors, but with an opt-out next summer, the Thunder were facing the possibility of Westbrook, George and new addition Carmelo Anthony (player option) all hitting the open market and leaving next July. Now, with Westbrook locked up, the Thunder’s long-term outlook is in a much more stable position.
“I was happy, I was happy,” Anthony said. “Everybody should be happy, everybody should be excited about right now [and] the future. He’s the cornerstone of this organization, and he’s proven that yesterday by agreeing to that deal not only showing this organization his commitment, but showing [Oklahoma City] his commitment to them, too.”
While Westbrook’s future is settled and George’s now lurches to the forefront, Anthony dismissed any talk of what he might be thinking long term.
“I’m gonna tell you right now, I’m not even answering those questions,” Anthony said. “I don’t even want to touch those questions right now. I don’t even want to alter my focus and my vision right now, being in training camp and trying to get things rolling, trying to establish/re-establish something here.”
Still, with Westbrook now under contract with the Thunder through the 2022-23 season, the Thunder’s prospects to retain their stars becomes a much stronger proposition.
“Yeah, I got phone calls yesterday. I got a lot of phone calls yesterday,” Anthony said, laughing. “I didn’t text them back, but I got a lot of phone calls.”
Westbrook is still sitting out training camp following a PRP injection in his left knee last week. He did not speak with reporters Saturday, but he is scheduled to do so Sunday following a community event and intrasquad scrimmage at a local high school.