BY REDCHAIR; Sports Editor
For those of you who do not know Russell Westbrook, he is an emerging basketball star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is the starting point guard who was very much criticized for his play in the western conference playoffs. The biggest issue with Westbrook could be considered his head. At times he can get out of control and have high turnover numbers and shoot the ball as many times as his fellow all-star teammate Kevin Durant. He also has his own “Why Not” theory that he has on his wristbands and promotes on twitter with his #WhyNotWednesdays. I by no means disagree with his theory. As soon as you think you can’t do something you are already limiting what you can do. I love his why not ideology and even though certain coaches believe you need to play within yourself and play within the team philosophy Russell Westbrook is such an explosive and athletically gifted specimen that he might not have any limits. He can get to the rim almost anytime he wants to and either score or draw a foul. He can also create his own shot whenever he wants.
As a player who was drafted in 2008 out of UCLA he has incredible talent but is still a maturing talent. He played the shooting guard role and is still learning to be a point guard. With all the attention that Russell Westbrook has gotten, with the media and fans finally getting to see him play in the western conference finals, and them labeling him as reckless and a ball hog I couldn’t help but taking a different look at the situation as a Thunder fan. Westbrook is a beautiful distraction to a possible bigger issue. What is the biggest issue with LeBron James right now? That he doesn’t show up in big games, he plays timid, he doesn’t have that killer instinct. If Durant didn’t have Westbrook taking all the criticism for all the Thunder losses Kevin Durant would be in the same situation as LeBron. Durant has games where he looks amazing and he has that killer instinct. He takes it to the hole and draws fouls and is almost automatic at the free throw line. The games where the offense is stagnant and Durant isn’t driving and settles for three-point shots the Thunder are in trouble.
The Thunder’s offense does not have a low post game at all. Not even Durant at 6’10”. If Durant, Harden, Manor, and Cook aren’t knocking down their shots and Perkins and Ibaka aren’t getting cheap put back points the only play-makers the Thunder have are Westbrook and Harden. Harden is a good shooter and is more suited for a pick and roll motion type of offense which works well with the players around him but if they can’t hit shots it’s useless. Enter Westbrook, a player who drives to the lane with almost a reckless abandonment style and can get to the rim any time he wants. At 6’3” he is normally faster, taller, and stronger than whoever is guarding him. He’s fearless when he takes it to the hole. He isn’t afraid of contact. He absorbs it. He’s a great free throw shooter and isn’t afraid of getting fouled. Westbrook has the killer instinct. He just isn’t in the position where it’s acceptable to have it. When you’re on a team with the multiple time scoring champion I guess you’re only allowed to play side kick and facilitate the ball. There’s no room to be partners in crime. When the media tried to inflate the situation by asking if Durant had a problem with Westbrook’s shot selection and quantity Durant basically said he loves Westbrook as a teammate and encourages him to play his game.
So when it comes to all of the attention that surrounds Russell Westbrook and the type of player he is I can only think what Durant is thinking. Durant doesn’t want the ball in his hands all the time and having to create his own shots. He wants to curl on a screen and shoot three pointers. He wants to slash without the ball. Westbrook is a great compliment to his game as he always has that killer instinct when the pressure might be getting to Durant in key games and he becomes timid if his shots aren’t falling. Why not Westbrook? You’re telling me Westbrook can’t take over a game? Why not? Over the off-season Westbrook trained with the same trainer Derrick Rose used before his MVP season. Westbrook focused on improving his jumper that had a slight lean. He believes that has been corrected. He also focused on a low-post game as he is one of the bigger point guards in the game today. A floater has also been added to his arsenal of weapons increasing his percentages within five feet when he drives and doesn’t get the fouls called. Even though realistically it’s hard to say that Westbrook will win a MVP anytime soon with Durant being on the same team it’s still possible. He did post pretty similar numbers to Rose last season. Why not a future MVP? Why not a future NBA champion? I guess only time will tell but expect an even better season for Russell Westbrook in his 4th season.