Thunder's Westbrook not worried about new contract
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
Russell Westbrook transformed from the most turnover-prone player in the NBA into an All-Star who helped lead his team to the conference finals.
Heading into his fourth season, he has positioned himself for a big payday. It's just not the center of his focus right now.
Westbrook would be a restricted free agent at the end of the season if he doesn't reach a new deal, meaning the Thunder would still have the right to match any offer he gets from another team.
''It's not a distraction at all,'' Westbrook said Tuesday at the team's media day. ''I'm looking forward to this year and looking forward to big things out of my team and my teammates.''
Westbrook was a second-team all-NBA selection last season when averaged 21.9 points and 8.2 assists - both good enough to place him in the top 15 in the league. He still was worst in the NBA with 3.9 turnovers per game, but all his positive plays overshadowed the negative.
''We love what Russell brings us. He's a tough point guard. He's one of the best in the league,'' coach Scott Brooks said.
''He's improved every year and that's not going to change this year. I think he's going to continue to get better. He's 23 years old and the work that he puts in, the good attitude that he brings to the court, those are the two things that I worry about.''
Brooks said he doesn't concern himself with Westbrook's contract situation, leaving that part of the job to general manager Sam Presti.
Westbrook tried to brush aside questions about negotiations to his agent and refused to express any concern about getting a deal done before the season starts on Christmas or at any other particular point in the process.
When NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant first became eligible for an extension last offseason, Presti was waiting to talk to him just after midnight and offered him the maximum under the old collective bargaining agreement - five years and $85 million.
Westbrook's extension would fall under the new CBA that was at the center of the lockout that delayed the start of the season.
''I'm not even worried about it,'' Westbrook said. ''I'm just going in and trying to play and trying to stay positive.''
Durant said he doesn't feel as though he needs to recruit Westbrook and encourage him to stick around.
''He's already on our team. I think he's going to be on our team for a while, too,'' Durant said. ''He wants to stay here. That's the vibe I get from him.
''Those are decisions you tell a guy just to make the decision on what he feels and what he believes in. I think that Russell is a guy that believes in team first and wants to be here in Oklahoma City. He loves the city, so we'll see.''
Both of the team's All-Stars said reports of a dispute between them during last year's playoffs were simply a part of basketball and now it's water under the bridge.
''People have got to understand that guys are not going to agree on every single thing that goes on in a long season,'' Durant said. ''Guys are going to get in arguments but at the same time, we understand each other and we know that we just want the best for each other.
''I've got his back 100 percent and he's got my back 100 percent on that floor.''
Durant said the two bounce ideas off each other about how the Thunder can continue to improve ''and I'm excited he's on our team because he's a freak of nature.''
''I just know that me and Kevin are very close,'' Westbrook said. ''We talk every day and communicate on what we need to do, and coming into this year, I don't know what happened last year or what led to everybody saying that but I'm onto the new year and just looking forward to this year.''
Westbrook said his focus isn't on improving his personal statistics or any other selfish goals.
''Just to make my team win,'' he said. ''That's my personal goal is coming out every night and making sure the Thunder is winning at the end, at the buzzer.''