The narratives start now. Kevin Durant is a selfish snake and Russell Westbrook is a loyal solider. The best one-two punch in the league split exactly a month ago, but one-half of them is remaining in Oklahoma City. It’s ironic how four years ago we would have thought that a core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka would win multiple titles. Now all of them are on their own paths. The first three are franchise players that when at their best are top five players in the league. Meanwhile, Ibaka will be in Orlando in an attempt to raise his 2017 free agency stock as high as possible to set up the payday that OKC GM Sam Presti wasn’t going to give him. Regardless of how these careers turn out, we’ll need an ESPN 30 for 30 when it’s all said and done.

I’ve touched on the Ibaka situation since he was traded twice, and I’ve given my thoughts on Durant to the Warriors. Harden will come soon. Let’s look at Russell Westbrook’s future via a question/answer format shall we?

Can you expand on Westbrook’s narrative?

Westbrook staying in OKC portrays him as the good guy forever. Those that question his basketball antics can’t scrutinize him like they did before because (1) he stayed, and (2) he’s the only all-star caliber player on the Thunder. He can have a quadruple double because of 10 turnovers and no one will bat an eye because he either won the game for his squad or put everything he had into it. As good as Russell Westbrook is, OKC is at best an underdog. Some doubt that the Thunder could make the playoffs, and whether they do or not we know that Russell will have at least 25 triple doubles.

Still looking at me crazy? He had 18 last year! No Durant and Ibaka now!! Sure he might not have 10 assists per game this year, but needs just 7 more triple doubles than last season? I’ll take that bet.

How exactly does the three year extension work?

The deal is actually 85 million over the next two seasons starting with the upcoming season. Russell forgoes the last year of the five year contract and starts up a new one so Oklahoma doesn’t have to worry about free agency for two years. Basically, imagine Russ resigned a 2 year deal and chopped up the year 5 from the last contract while doubling his salary raise for the 2016-17 season. Everyone wins. Especially Russell’s agent.

What will be Russell’s legacy?

Regardless of how these next three years go, Oklahoma will love Russellmania forever. The super athletic, dive for every ball, attempt to rip off the rim with a dunk guard will be cherished as if he’s priceless. He can do no wrong. 3 turnovers in three consecutive possessions? It happens to everyone Russ. A technical for reacting in a way he shouldn’t have? It’s alright, everyone gets techs. A 30 footer over two defenders to tie/win the game when there’s an open shooter in the corner? Why not?! OKC fans and Russ stans will defend number 0 forever. Even if he left the Thunder after 2019 he won’t receive hate. The reaction will be: “At least he was loyal and tried to make it work.” Which happens to be the truth.

Will the Thunder make the playoffs?

Well…

Let’s narrow this down. Warriors, Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies are locks. Blazers should follow. The Jazz had major injury problems, but if they are healthy they should be a top 5 seed. From then on we have Houston, Dallas, and OKC for the final three spots. LA and Minnesota are developing young talent under new coaches, Denver is building up with last year’s coach, Phoenix has no clear direction though Booker is a promising player, Sacramento has problems, and New Orleans can’t stay healthy.

I have the Rockets and Thunder making the playoffs. I expect Harden and Russell to have great seasons next year. I think Dallas shouldn’t be underestimated, and that they could take any of the bottom four spots. The only guarantees are in Golden State, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Memphis.

My personal opinion?

I passionate despise, “The regular season doesn’t matter,” people. If you think that, then don’t watch any basketball. You aren’t an interested fan of the sports if you turn on the TV April through June. However, if I were to ask someone from this camp on their feelings on Russell Westbrook I’d expect an answer along the lines of…

“There are only 9 or 10 players who matter in the NBA. Russell is one of those players.” And they’d be right, goddamn it.

As I’ve already said, when at his best, Russell Westbrook is one of the five best players in the league. So that’s what this has come to. Next season will be one for the ages as long as there isn’t a long lockout. That Warriors @ OKC game will be one to remember for the ages. Good thing I didn’t ditch my Russellmania card!

@PerSourcesMikey

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