OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma City Thunder practice facility was quiet on Monday, with few cars in the parking lot and only a couple of staffers coming and going. The organization had been bracing itself for the worst possible news it could receive: Kevin Durant wasn't only leaving, but he was choosing the team that eliminated the Thunder, the Golden State Warriors.
The fallout will take days, weeks, maybe even months for everyone involved with the organization to digest how the franchise player could walk away from the franchise he built. But the Thunder now move on and have questions to answer.
Like the most obvious one: What happens now with All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook?
The Thunder rolled the dice with Durant, opting to silence any idea they would trade him before he hit free agency. The then-Hornets, Magic and Nuggets all went through that -- with Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony, respectively -- but dealt their stars and at least got something back instead of letting their foundational piece walk for nothing. The Thunder believed they could do enough to convince Durant to stay. They didn't, and now they're left with nothing. No real cap space to sign a replacement. No Plan B to retool and challenge the new SuperWarriors.
They still have Westbrook, though, at least for another year. He's an unrestricted free agent next summer himself and can make this same kind of decision to play elsewhere. Those inside the Thunder organization were long concerned about outside forces swaying Durant to leave; they don't feel that way about Westbrook. As one team source said, this will only make Westbrook want to stay more. Of course, it's a long way until July 1, 2017. And a lot can change in a year, as the Thunder know all too well with Durant now.
But the Thunder will try and batten down the hatches and now make their sell to Westbrook: It's your team now. They'll probably pitch him on an extension to send a message that they're committed to him and work to build the team around him.
The other, more immediate choice: What to do with Dion Waiters? He's a restricted free agent, and though he's drawing interest from other teams that might throw a sizable offer sheet his direction, the Thunder aren't in a position where they can readily let young assets walk for nothing. And, by the way, they've got a little bit more cash on hand with Durant's max contract coming off the books.
According to sources, the Thunder will take some time before making any significant roster choices. They will need to gauge Westbrook's reaction and make a judgment on which way he now leans. If he wants to take control of the franchise, the Thunder will plant their flag in the ground around No. 0. But if he's going to waver like Durant did, they might be forced to start exploring their options.