In defence of Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook
Westbrook, the Thunder’s most misunderstood, puzzling or overanalyzed player, depending on your perspective, wouldn’t flame the scrutiny on coach Scott Brooks’ decision not to play him a single second of the fourth quarter in OKC’s Game 2 win over Dallas on Thursday. The play of the Thunder’s second-best player has been publicly picked apart throughout the postseason. Does he shoot too much, take bad shots and not pass enough?
HoopsVibe’s Very Quick Call: Russell Westbrook has a giant bulls-eye on his back.
The critics allege the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard shoots too much, knocks heads with Coach Scott Brooks, and wants to establish himself at the expense of his team.
The critics argue Westbrook should be the Thunder’s third option, with superstar Kevin Durant and super-sub James Harden as primary scorers.
Perhaps this is fair. Perhaps, the Thunder would be better with Westbrook using his athleticism to set-the-table for teammates and averaging a balanced 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
The criticism is, to an extent, unfair. Especially since the Thunder won game two of the Western Conference Finals in Dallas.
Sure, Brooks sat Westbrook for the entire fourth quarter. Sure, the Thunder won in spite of Westbrook, not because of him.
They still won, though. They still achieved a split on the road. And they have home-court advantage.
The world isn’t ending. Westbrook isn’t the devil. He’s just a 22-year old point guard, who sometimes struggles with when to pass and shoot.
Others have had issues with decision making. Like Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons. Like Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. And like Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls.
By the way, these three figured ‘it’ out and won a combined 13 NBA championships.
Don’t get it twisted: Westbrook is not the next Zeke, Kobe, or MJ. It takes time for players, specifically point guards, to figure ‘it’ out.
Take Chauncey Billups. Before he became Mr. Big Shot with the Detroit Pistons, Billups was a nomad, playing on four teams between 1997 and 2002.
Critics said he lacked a position, couldn’t involve teammates and was a bust. Billups suddenly figured ‘it out. Over the last ten years, he has won an NBA championship, been a Finals MVP, and made regular appearances in the Conference Finals.
Bottom line: Billups has had an excellent career. And he isn’t done. Like Westbrook, he needed time. Westbrook, at this age, is mch further along than Billups.
Critics need to appreciate Westbrook for what he is and can do. Soon enough, he’ll figure ‘it’ out. Then opponents will have to watch out.
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