Russell Westbrook's future has been the biggest issue gripping the NBA ever since Kevin Durant opted to join the Golden State Warriors.
For the first time in his career, the All-Star point guard will be without the small forward in Oklahoma City and there has been a lot of suggestion that the organisation could move him on before next summer to avoid a repeat of 2016; you know, once bitten, twice shy.
Westbrook is an unrestricted free agent in 2017 and rumours have been bounded about that the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers are heavily interested in his services.
There were even reports from an anonymous league source that the triple-double machine would 'a hundred percent' leave the franchise within the next 12 months. However, according to The Oklahoman's Anthony Slater, who spends a lot of time around the organisation, Russ is ready and prepared for the challenge that awaits him.
"Westbrook has given the Thunder no indication that he currently wants out. To the contrary, one source described him as ticked off about the Kevin Durant departure, determined for this new challenge and eager for the season to start: He's ready."
The California native has experienced leading the franchise without KD before. When the now-Warriors player missed most of 2014/15 with injury, the mantle was thrust upon the guard and he failed to help OKC reach the playoffs.
However, it will be different this time. Westbrook is a much better player than two years ago. His overall game has come on leaps and bounds, and he is ready to lead the franchise into the top eight and possibly further.
What the future after that holds is still undecided. The Lakers fancy their chances, so do Boston, so will a lot of other teams. But loyalty may be the order of the day for the 27-year-old.
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