July has been a wild ride for Thunder fans, so I want to hit pause for a second and discuss a few topics currently floating around the Internet. Let’s dive into the chatter of new uniform options, Russell Westbrook’s extension and the noise surrounding Paul George’s future in OKC.
So there’s buzz the Thunder may be looking at new jersey options for the 2017-18 season. It doesn’t sound like a full re-brand, so don’t scrap the old shield logo just yet — but a few uniform edits appear to be in order.
On Monday’s Power Lunch, Erik Horne of the Oklahoman said:
“I’m hearing the same on the Sunset being out. Nothing yet on the colors, but I’m hearing at least two new jerseys to go with the traditional home white and away blue.”
Make of it what you will, but with Nike set to take over as the NBA’s official uniform provider, there may be something new to look at next season. As a fan of the red/orange Sunsets, their demise would be a bummer, but I’m excited to see what the swoosh has up its sleeve.
Stay tuned on this one.
About that Westbrook Extension
If you’re on Twitter, you probably saw the “Westbrook is about to sign his extension!” rumors toward the end of last week. While I love Twitter and use it daily, it can become problematic when you take 140 characters and accept them as fact. It devolves into a digital game of “Telephone” and spreads in every direction like wildfire. Once the rumor latches on, it’s over.
I assume most Thunder fans are eagerly awaiting Westbrook’s extension, but the deal’s current status is readily available for anyone who seeks it. It may not be juicy. It may not be worth a headline. That’s the story in a nutshell though — there’s nothing truly newsworthy on the subject at this time.
This is what we know for sure:
The contract is on the table
Don’t let Paul George scare you
Russ will sign it (or won’t) when he decides
That’s it. That’s everything we know about Russell Westbrook’s plans for the future.
As Royce pointed out — the expectation is that Westbrook signs the extension, and I fully expect the same. Fans have long labored over the possibility of him in purple and gold, but there hasn’t been any reason to believe LA (or anywhere else) is on his mind right now.
After a 2016-17 season that resulted in an All-Star berth, First Team All-NBA selection, scoring title, league MVP, ESPY for Best Male Athlete and today’s honor of Sports Illustrated’s Most Fashionable Athlete, is there any particular reason Thunder fans should worry about his exit? His personal brand has never been stronger, and his team has the foundation to contend with anyone outside of Oakland. Life is pretty good.
Long story short: The Thunder offered Westbrook a contract extension, and he’s taking time to think about. Many believe he will sign it before the season starts, but it’s easy to misjudge these situations entirely. Right now we all know the same information, and the indications are positive.
Paul George and His Future in OKC
Fans were nearly drown in all things Paul George last week, as his arrival in Oklahoma City was the talk of the town. He drew a massive crowd for his airport welcome, was the star of the organization’s “Paul George Welcome Party”, and wrapped it all up with not one, but two in-depth interviews with national publications. The guy was everywhere.
The thing is — Paul George said a lot last week. Let’s touch on a few quotes that stuck out, because it felt like the Thunder fan base was searching for clues in his every word.Quote 1
: “The fact that anywhere I’ve been or I’ve gone here, it’s been so welcoming. It’s like a ‘what’s mine is yours’ kind of a thing. You can’t replace that anywhere. This has a chance to be home.”
I don’t speak from personal experience, but it’s probably easy to love a place that enthusiastically welcomes you/throws a grand party upon your arrival. You know how your dog loses its mind in excitement every time you come home? That’s what Paul George felt like all of last week — surrounded by jovial Labrador Retrievers.
On a list of things to say that will immediately endear you to the folks in Oklahoma, saying it feels like “home” is at the top. It’s a surefire way to generate support, get the public behind you, and — unfortunately — convince everyone you’ll never leave. It’s true that he may turn out to be more than a rental, and I like the Thunder’s chances more now than I did the night of the trade, but the reality is there’s a ways to go.
It entirely possible that George may come to view the city/state as home, but it was bold to go there so quickly. His true feelings will be revealed somewhere in the regular season, not here in the newlywed phase. Never trust the words of a man who just recently fell in love.Quote 2
: “Hopefully at the end of this season me and Russ are both on the same page with plans. I’m hopeful to be in the loop with Russ on his decision, as much as he’s in the loop with me on my decision.”
This particular statement was made on multiple occasions, and each time it brought about pause from Thunder faithful. George and Westbrook making a decision together is pretty innocent in itself, but waiting until next summer? OK, that wasn’t part of the plan.
For those that got panicky feelings at this very idea, Royce Young’s statement above should calm troubled minds. For refreshing, he reported, “Nothing has changed for Westbrook in making a decision. As with everything, he’ll make it independently, and on his own terms.”
So why would George even suggest it? Who knows — maybe he’s aware of something the rest of us aren’t. Perhaps he was just diverting some of the attention away from himself. It seems most likely he was saying things that sounded good while under a barrage of questions. Nothing to see here.Quote 3
: “The more and more I thought about it, it was ‘Hey I go to a team, we make the conference finals, we make the finals, we have a great coaching staff, a great team assembled, guys committed to winning… Why wouldn’t you want to stick around and be a part of that team or part of that organization?’”
And finally — the ultimatum. Well, kind of.
When asked what would encourage him to stay in Oklahoma City, George mentioned that winning will be his focal point. Western Conference Finals? Making the Finals? That would be enough to make him consider it… But what does that even mean?
It means that success will be an influencing factor, but the level of success has yet to be determined. Maybe the Western Conference Finals would be enough to do the trick, and it’s not far-fetched to believe the Thunder could make it that far. If he’s saying it’s NBA Finals or bust, he’s basically saying “I’m not even going to unpack.” Toppling the Warriors in 2017-18 seems improbable for every team in the league.
So how far do the Thunder have to make it in order for George to consider staying? I can’t really tell you, and neither can he.
All-in-all I thought George was well-spoken and thoughtful in his first appearance in Oklahoma City, and I’m excited about the opportunity to watch him play. It’s apparent he’s fluent in the art of saying a lot without saying anything, and he certainly reserves the right to take his time — after all, he didn’t ask for a trade to the Thunder.
Settle in for the long haul, friends. This will not be over quickly.