As soon as Kevin Durant announced his plans to sign with the Golden State Warriors, questions about Russell Westbrook started to surface. What's next for him and the Oklahoma City Thunder? Would they consider trading him? Would he renegotiate his contract? Could Durant have left because of frustrations with Westbrook?

For the past eight years, Durant and Westbrook defined the Thunder together. They went to the Finals once, were derailed by injuries a bunch of other times and, just a bit more than a month ago, they came as close as possible to knocking off the 73-win team that just landed Durant. It is a new day in Oklahoma City now, and Westbrook is the face of the franchise. He's also set to be a free agent a year from now.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti told reporters Monday that he thinks Westbrook will take on the challenge of leading the team without Durant. He also revealed that Westbrook and longtime Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison had dinner with Durant just before free agency started. In ESPN's Royce Young's feature on the end of the Durant era, there is more information on Westbrook's role in all of this:

Now, with Westbrook's free agency now less than a year away, the Thunder are looking at the harsh reality of being burned to the ground by the cruel world of professional sports. They say they're going to take their time to evaluate their options from here, but their first move is trying to hand the keys of the franchise into Westbrook's hands, to hope that he'll commit to a long-term deal. If not, if he wants to test the free agency waters like Durant did, they'll be forced to consider trading him.

This was always about Durant being persuaded. The impulse decisions, like proposing to girlfriend Monica Wright on a night he was just "feeling it" in 2013, or when he signed that extension in 2010 and later came to regret it, made it a danger.

But he was the franchise, and they were willing to take the risk. Westbrook, though, they feel differently about. One source said in February that Durant leaving would only make Westbrook more resolute to stay.

According to ESPN, Westbrook "largely led the charge" at that dinner, trying to convince Durant that the Thunder were on the verge of something special. Given that they had defeated the San Antonio Spurs and given Golden State all it could handle, Westbrook may very well have been right. But Durant chose to go elsewhere anyway.

The most interesting thing here, though, is the idea that Durant's decision might make Westbrook more likely to stick around. When discussing Durant's free agency, it was often positioned as his loyalty to the organization and city vs. the uncertainty of Westbrook's future: As much as he loved Oklahoma City, would he risk re-signing and then losing his co-star in 12 months? Perhaps, in a weird way, that script will be flipped now. Maybe loyalty will be even more important to Westbrook now that he's the lone star. He will either break the city's collective heart again, or he will be the guy who stuck around.

If Durant's free agency taught us anything, it's that we should be careful when trying to predict the career choices of superstar athletes. Westbrook will have an assortment of options when it's time to sign his next contract, and any number of factors could play into the choice he makes. At this point, it's too early to know what his intentions will be, and the Thunder have to do everything they can to avoid losing him for nothing.

Russell Westbrook in OKC jersey
Russell Westbrook is the Thunder's lone star. USATSI