The Oklahoma City Thunder has called off its $6.7 million qualifying offer to Dion Waiters and rumors are swirling that the move is to open their cap space in a bid to renegotiate with Russell Westbrook who they fear might jump into free agency next year.
Though the Thunder owns his Bird Rights, Waiters will for sure look for other options as he is now an unrestricted free agent. The most likely scenario is that the Thunder will lose him to other teams, like the Brooklyn Nets, which has been trying to sign him. It is clear that the Thunder will do everything in its power to make Westbrook stay and reconsider his option in free agency next summer.
The Thunder could not afford to lose a player like Westbrook, who has now become the face of the franchise, just like when they lost Kevin Durant this summer. Sources are telling Yahoo Sports that once they managed to seal the deal with Westbrook, they would pursue Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers to join them next year. It is a plan that would surely entice Westbrook to open his doors for a re-negotiation of his contract.
It seems that the Thunder has been hatching this plan as they have signed Spaniard Alex Abrines and acquired Victor Oladipo via trade in case they lose Waiters via free agency. Now that their plans are known Waiters will for sure reconsider the Nets offer and join Jeremy Lin and other youngsters in Brooklyn.
Sources told Kevin O’Connor that Westbrook might not still sign any contract extension since it will not be to his best interest. Rather, Westbrook will honor his final contract with the Thunder and will really consider jumping into free agency next year. The source added that Westbrook is in control of the situation and for any team that would want him by next year they must be able to sign him to a long-term deal and commitment as well.
“OKC is still trying to get Russell Westbrook to sign a contract extension. Which he won’t do because extensions at this time aren’t in a player’s best interest anymore. He won’t do it. No team is going to pay a hefty price without getting a commitment from Westbrook,” the source said.
The Thunder suffered greatly with the departure of Durant and now that Westbrook is also on the verge of doing that as well, the Thunder wants an assurance that he would stay with the team. The Thunder is sacrificing Waiters on the other end, but all is not lost as teams such as the Nets and the 76ers will surely make their bid on him anytime soon.
The Thunder will have to worry themselves is how to convince Westbrook not to jump to free agency next year and get his commitment to sign a new contract that the Thunder would keep him. It will boil down to personal interest against the Thunder’s sweet offer.
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