Photo: Getty Images/Ronald Martinez
The Oklahoma City Thunder signed Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48-million extension this weekend.It’s a savvy move that has all sorts of consequences for OKC going forward, but we’re left asking one question:
1. How do the Thunder keep signing these guys without the melodrama that goes hand-in-hand with pending free agency?
OKC signed Kevin Durant to a max extension with two years left on his rookie contract in 2010.
They did the same with Russell Westbrook in 2011.
And now, Ibaka.
Three years, three under-25 budding stars, three drama-less contract negotiations. How do they do it?
On paper, these are the exact types of players that would use free agency in absurd, Dwight Howard-esque fashion. They’re young guys drafted into the smallest market in the NBA — who could move to a more glitzy city than OKC, and make more money in endorsements. Yet they’re all staying with the Thunder without even flirting with free agency.
In Durant and Westbrook’s case, they were given max extensions (they couldn’t have gotten any more money in free agency). But Ibaka didn’t get the max, in fact he got a pretty cheap contract compared to some similar players.
JaVale McGee, who is a poor man’s Ibaka with less potential, got 4 years, $44 million from the Nuggets this summer. Tyson Chandler, who does similar things to Ibaka, got 4 years, $58 million from the Knicks last summer. If Ibaka played out his contract and tested free agency, there’s no doubt someone would have bettered that 4 years/$48 million.
The NBA has become a free-agency obsessed league. Teams construct make-shift rosters with the expressed purpose of luring in star players in the summer. And players use free agency — namely, the threat of a team losing a star for nothing — to dictate where they want to go.
It’s ugly. But somehow OKC has avoided all of it.
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