The OKC blunder is not Westbrook's fault
FILE - BOSTON, MA - MARCH 20: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stands for the National Anthem before the game against the Boston Celtics on March 20, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
He owns one of the most lucrative contracts in the history of the NBA. But even though Russell Westbrook has already secured his and family’s future by signing a five-year $205M contract extension last September to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder until the 2021-22 season, the 29-year-old point guard still plays every game like there’s no tomorrow.
For the second straight season, Westbrook averaged a triple-double. He is the only player in the history of the league to have done that twice. When he averaged 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 10.4 APG last season to become the first player since Oscar Robertson to average that kind of a stat-line, it was a monumental accomplishment that led to Westbrook being named MVP. But, for him to average 25.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG and 10.3 APG while playing with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, it put Westbrook in a class of his own.
Whether he is the lone star on a team or part of a “Big Three,” you can count on Westbrook to do his job: EVERYTHING.
Unfortunately, to some people, especially those who only look at the end result, everything means nothing. So, when the OKC Thunder suffered a shocking first round exit at the hands of the Utah Jazz last week, Westbrook’s haters were quick to brew up a storm on social media.
They called him a ball hog for taking 43 out of the team's 93 shot attempts. They called him a choker for missing two potential game-tying three-pointers during the final minute of the game. They called him all kinds of bad things when he lashed out at a heckling fan on his way back to the dugout.
I’d like to believe that with the season on the line, Westbrook had to overcompensate, especially with George and Anthony (they combined for just 12 points) suddenly growing ice cold in Game 6. One can only imagine what it’s like to take a big shot in the endgame but Westbrook is willing to take on that responsibility under immense pressure. As for that incident with the fan, it was clearly a picture of frustration. I wish Westbrook would’ve kept his emotions in check, but only he knows the kind of words that were said that triggered his outburst. Nevertheless, the damage has been done and that incident was not the kind of final memory you want to leave with the public at the end of a season.
What I will remember though when I think about the OKC Thunder and their 2017-18 NBA Season, is an exhausted Westbrook, sitting down, breathing heavily after a 121-108 loss to the Orlando Magic in November. In that game, Westbrook scored 20 points in the fourth quarter in an attempt to will his team to victory.
Again, despite doing everything for his team, it was still not enough. And the outside noise only grew louder from there.
Now, there is talk about Westbrook not being a championship caliber point guard. Some have even said that he should move to shooting guard just like Allen Iverson did when he played for Larry Brown in Philadelphia. But, the worst comments I’ve seen are the ones that state that Westbrook is problem in OKC.
Russell Westbrook plays with reckless abandon every single game. He puts his body on the line and electrifies the crowd with his highlight plays and intense passion. With this type of style, he has done things that have never been done before. It’s insane how all this is easily overlooked and forgotten.
The OKC Thunder fell way short of the lofty expectations placed upon them this season. But, don’t blame it on one man. Remember, it takes a team to win a championship.
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