There are few polarizing figures in the NBA like Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. Generally you either love him or you hate him. Or you love him but he frustrates the heck out of you with some of his decision making and shot selection.
In Game 7 of the Thunder’s first round series against the Grizzlies, Westbrook dazzled on his way to a monstrous triple double that would even have won over a few of the skeptics and critics – albeit it briefly.
Stat-line: 27 pts (10-16 fg, 2-2 3pt, 5-6 FT), 10 rebs (4 off, 6 def), 16 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk, 7 to’s.
What the stats tell us.
- Russell Westbrook in one of the biggest playoff games for the Thunder, came up huge.
- Westbrook certainly knows how to run the offense and get people the basketball where they can score it
- He is damaging on the offensive glass with his leaping ability, strength and athleticism
- Shot selection was first class
- He still tries to do too much and can throw the ball away
This is the glorious juxtaposition that Russell Westbrook provides basketball fans. He is a brilliant young guard, explosive and athletic, who knows how to play the game of basketball. He also let’s emotion run wild and that can affect his poise – for better and for worse.
After any Thunder loss, when Russ has jacked up some ill-advised shots, turned the ball over on plays that make you cringe and generally has gotten the fans off-side, you hear the familiar cries of “trade him!”, “OKC will never win a title with Westbrook” and “Durant is the star, he should be taking the most shots!”
However, when he puts together games like this, you rarely hear the credit that he deserves.
Purists won’t like the way Westbrook plays the point guard position. After all, Russ is really a shooting guard who is being taught to play the point guard role. He has difficulty with this on many occasions as he battles his ability to score against his need to.
He is so explosive and dangerous that sometimes his game appears to be out of control. Sometimes it is, but other times we just can’t grasp how quickly he is able to move, with and without the ball. Quite often he sees a play developing and gets “too excited”, rushing it and causing turnovers.
Other times, like in Game 7, everything works in beautiful harmony. He is a balanced ball of aggression and poise, jump shots and drives to the rim, shooting and distribution. He is locked in defensively, plays within himself and the Thunder system, makes everyone around him better – and grabs an all important win in the process.
The challenge for Westbrook, is to make these types of games the norm. With the gifts and tools he possesses, a triple double is likely on any given night, but he needs to make the most of it. Perhaps if he received the same praise for the good games that he receives in hatred for the poor ones, he might learn to trust himself a little more.
Kevin Durant makes it extremely clear that he and the Thunder need Russell Westbrook to win a championship. The Robin to Durant’s Batman could easily be the main attraction on any other team, but this duo wants to play together, stay together and win together.
With more games like that from Westbrook, winning it all could become a reality – and soon.