A lot has been said about Russell Westbrook the last few days. A lot of people blame him for Oklahoma City’s Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat. His poor shot selection and out-of-control play really cost the Thunder a golden opportunity to seize control of the NBA Finals. After doing a lot of thinking, here is my take on the situation.
I understand that Westbrook is extremely talented, athletic, and gifted. But, like the way he dresses, his play is out of control more times than not. Again, like the way he dresses, he tries to send statements, during every game and press conference.
I am going to be honest, Russell. You might not care what I have to say but did you know that earlier in the playoffs, you wore a collared-shirt with fish hooks on it? Your style is stupid, unprofessional and lacking in common sense. I understand that that type of clothing is in style today, but it’s just plain stupid. And the fake glasses? You, along with 450 other professional basketball players, need to stop wearing them because, again, it makes you look foolish. I am not a big fan of Kobe Bryant, but he has earned my respect, not with his play, but how professional he acts off the court (except for that Eagle, Colorado escapade). He dresses, looks and acts like a professional before and after every game, whether the Los Angeles Lakers win or lose. He isn’t big into style points this late into his career and I hope Westbrook is taking notes.
But enough talk about his style. I want to talk about his game.
You can throw me every single stat about Westbrook. When he takes more shots than Kevin Durant, the Thunder has a great record and blah, blah, blah. I don’t care. Does “getting mine” help a team win? Dirk Nowitzki got “his” last year, but the Dallas Mavericks put forth a team effort. Jason Terry got his shots, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and J.J. Barea got shots. Now, Dirk didn’t have to compete with anyone, like Durant, for shots and maybe that was why he was so comfortable. He knew that he was going to get shots. I don’t know if Westbrook knows when he is going to get his shots. Durant is one of the more unselfish, humble superstars the game has seen in the last 5-10 years, and he is willing to sacrifice some of his shots for Westbrook.
But what bugs me the most about Westbrook is his demeanor. It looks like he and Kendrick Perkins have hung out with each other too much. You know, Perkins looks like he is always stuck paying the team dinner tab at the most expensive restaurant on road-trips. He’s that kind of pissed-off. Now, it looks like he and Westbrook are splitting the tab. Westbrook is always mad at himself when he makes a foolish play during a game. More times than not, I see him cuss under his breath, and he is either cussing at himself or a teammate for making a mistake. There are roughly 200 possessions during a basketball game, so mistakes are bound to happen. But I feel that every mistake he makes, he lets anger build-up inside of him, to the point where he starts trying to make up for his mistakes by either taking the next five shots or making “home-run”-type plays. Also, he plays like he is always trying to prove something. Dude, you don’t need to prove much of anything. Everyone, who watches the NBA, knows how good, sometimes great, you can be when you just play the game. I understand you are a score-first player who happens to be playing point guard. But sometimes you need to go with the flow of the game. By doing that, your rhythm will come back to you.
I would like to see his decision-making improve, too. He needs to know when to pass, shoot, or drive. Great scorers can recognize the ebbs and flows of a game, and when they need to defer and when they need to score. With Durant and James Harden on his side, Westbrook might not be making that mental transition as quick as people want him to. Right now, he is a high-volume scorer but high-shot total player who plays extremely inefficient. Funny thing is that he plays with two of more efficient players and scorers in the league (Durant and Harden). This past season Westbrook averaged .958 points per-shot. Last season he averaged .90 points per-shot, so he is improving. In last year’s postseason, Westbrook averaged an abysmal .826 points per-shot, but this year .914 points per-shot. Even though he has had some horrific shooting nights Westbrook has been pretty solid for the most part.
But what I saw on Thursday night was another level of horrific. It took Westbrook until 0.00 seconds left on the game-clock to notice that it wasn’t going to be his night. He missed several layups in the first half, most of them semi-tough gimme’s, which he usually makes. While he had a nice second half, the damage had already been done. I am not going to say that he IS the reason the Thunder lost, but he didn’t help their cause much. For how well Harden played in the first half, he only attempted two shots in the second half and made both of them. I am not going to go as far as Magic Johnson and say that it was “the worst game from a point guard that I have ever seen”, but I will say that it wasn’t pretty. I think when he picked up two early fouls, it got to him because as soon as he checked-in again, he took the first shot and missed.
No one player is to blame when his team loses, no matter how terrible he played. In the end, it’s a team game and you win or lose as a team.
But sometimes, one player is a bigger reason as to why his team lost the game. That’s the case in Game 2.
- NBA Finals Game 2 Reaction (4hoopsheads.com)
- Don’t blame Westbrook for Game 2 loss (espn.go.com)
- Thunder need to change starting lineup (nba-point-forward.si.com)