OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George had no inside information.
You’d think he would. You’d think with the access he has to Russell Westbrook, he would have been one of the first people to learn about the five-year extension, worth a projected $205 million, that the reigning MVP finalized Friday.
Nope. He needed NBATV as much as the rest of the basketball world.
“I saw the ticker. And we all were happy. We all were happy to see him [re-sign] long-term,” George said.
Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony wasn’t scrambling on the inside to uncover extra info, either. He didn’t find out all that differently, receiving a text informing him of the news while on the way to meet George. And it wasn’t the only time he had to tend to his phone Friday.
“I got a lot of phone calls yesterday,” Anthony said Saturday. “I didn’t text them back, but I got a lot of phone calls.”
That’s Westbrook, though: Perfectly understated, perfectly private, perfectly business-like. Get in and get out.
Westbrook had delayed signing the extension, which the Thunder offered him at the first moment they were allowed to, the stroke of midnight July 1, until Sep. 29. The organization didn’t waiver in its optimism that he would sign all that much during the 90 days the contract remained unautographed. Eventually, Westbrook agreed to commit to OKC.
It was such a quiet process, even Thunder coach Billy Donovan was unaware what was going down Friday, learning that his starting point guard had signed the deal when Westbrook walked by his office at the Thunder practice facility later in the day, gave him a thumbs up and strolled in to tell coach the news.
“He came by and told me he signed. I don’t know what happened, but he just said it was done. I didn’t even ask him the details,” Donovan said. “I just told him I was happy, gave him a hug, and he had a bunch of stuff he needed to do.”
The extension will keep Westbrook with the only team he’s ever played for through 2021-22, at least. He has a player option for the 2022-23 season projected to be worth $46.7 million, The Transcript previously reported.
Of course, Thunder contract drama hardly ends here.
George can become a free agent at the end of the season, almost certainly on track to turn down a 2018-19 player option so he can hit the open market. Anthony can become a free agent, as well. He has a 2018-19 player option worth $27.9 million, an average annual value he may not be able to find in 2018 free agency if that’s the route he chooses.
“I don’t even want to touch those questions right now,” Anthony said of his future. “I don’t want to lose my level of focus right now and start thinking about that. I’m just excited to be here now.”
George, meanwhile, who is six years younger than Anthony, said Westbrook extending “absolutely” factors into his thought process for the upcoming summer, even if much of the NBA still believes the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites to land him once his contract completes.
“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.”
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as a host of the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.