Last year, Russell Westbrook was the goat of every media out let outside of Oklahoma City. He was the goat for a couple in the city as well. It’s arguable to say Westbrook was the reason why the Thunder season ended, but as stated, he was the reason that many jumped onto last season.
It started with his confrontation with Kevin Durant. National outlets such as ESPN and CBS Sports said, “They can’t work together.” The media created a weird tension among Thunder fans, and maybe on the team. Could this actually work? Hard to tell. History doesn’t bode well when you have a proven super star in Durant, and someone who just blew on the national scene in Westbrook. It just screams Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett.
For you that don’t know, Kevin Garnett played in Minnesota for a handful of seasons, and led the Timberwolves to the conference finals once or twice. However, never could get over the hill, requested a trade to Boston, finally got it. Before all that trade stuff, he played with a pretty decent point guard who’s numbers last season rivaled Westbrook. He was an explosive scoring point guard and the two looked like they were going to take over the NBA. Marbury never liked playing in Garnett’s shadow. Too much tension built up on the team, and he requested a trade. The rest is history.
Westbrook really just came into his own last year. We all saw it. We all grew to love it. His don’t care attitude gained him the nickname among a handful of Thunder fans as the “Honey Badger.” Westbrook drove through the lane, dunking and getting to the line with reckless abandon.
He exploded out of the game, getting his first All-Star game appearance. He averaged 8.6 assists before the All-Star break, then it dipped to 7.4 after the All-Star break. He averaged 3.9 turnovers per game for both splits.
That 3.9 really shines brightly to a lot of people. They said he turned the ball over too much. He was a ball hog, and didn’t want to share the ball. It was a big sign since his assist averaged had dropped.
The Thing is, Westbrook never changed his game. He was applauded for his offensive explosiveness and his defensive aggressiveness UNTIL the trade.
You know which one I’m talking about. Brought Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City and Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to Boston.
Jeff Green had always been the goat for the fans and the media. With Green out of town, who were they going to blame for the high turnovers? Westbrook fell into that role, and not by choice.
Nothing change for Honey Badger, and he kept pushing the Thunder through the playoffs. We all remember what happened then. It became national attention when Westbrook did cost Oklahoma City a chance a sweep when he went into hero mode and shot just 12-of-30 at Denver. Westbrook continued to struggle throughout the playoffs to the point where everyone is saying he needed to be traded.
Then the lockout came, and there were rumors that the Celtics tried to trade Rajon Rondo for Westbrook, but Sam Presti laughed it off and said no. It was never confirmed or denied about this trade, but I don’t doubt it was brought up.
This season, Westbrook struggled out of the gate, and lost his cool. There was another Westbrook-Durant blow up on the sideline. Throughout everything, Westbrook and Durant said they are good friends and trust each other completely.
After turning the ball over 25 times in the first four games, Westbrook turned it on, and it took him 10 games to accumulate 25 turnovers.
Westbrook has been fantastic this season. At times when Kevin Durant wasn’t able to keep Oklahoma City surging, it was Westbrook who carried this team on his back.
Westbrook didn’t have high assists numbers, but his points per game average was up. There came the talk again. However, his turnovers were down and he still got the same rap from the national media.
“Oklahoma City needs a real point guard.” and “They’ll never win with Westbrook.”
Comparing last year’s playoffs to this year’s playoffs to this year’s playoffs, you’ll see two different players. Not because Westbrook was just horrible last season. It’s because he’s improving with Age. Westbrook is just in his fourth year. He’s really just still learning the game.
Westbrook was not a point guard in high school or at college, but Presti saw something in him that really fit this system, and it’s paying off. It’s the franchise’s first back-to-back trips to the Western Conference Finals since 1995-1996. The organization has rewarded the two-time All-Star point guard with an almost max contract extension. He earned it.
Westbrook has been nothing but a savior for this playoffs. I love Kevin Durant, he’s hit tons of game winners for us (three to be exact). However, it’s been Russell Westbrook has really sparked the team and the fans. Westbrook has been the one who’s led Oklahoma City through the fire as the team struggled at times to score points. Durant hasn’t been his taking the game over self this playoffs. He’s had some really good defenders. So, when that happens, Westbrook has been the one to step up.
Westbrook has lower assists, but his playoff turnover average is leading the entire NBA in the playoffs. The Thunder are 8-1 in the playoffs, and that’s a large part of that goes to Westbrook.
All of this culminated Monday night as Westbrook stole a Sessions pass, and moved down the court, got fouled and heaved up a lucky shot. The crowd went nuts, Westbrook went nuts as he spurred Oklahoma City on a run, and the win.
Westbrook averaged 0.8 turnovers per game. He averaged 4.6 assists per game. The assists, yeah it’s bad. However, if you look at the more important stat: the 4 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. That pushes Rondo, Paul and all the other great NBA point guards to the edge.
A lot of this has been just me rambling about last year and this year. Fact is, Westbrook is the single wild card to if the Thunder are going to win a World Championship. Oklahoma City can win games if Harden is slacking. He’s a unique point guard. Right now, offensively, no one can guard him.
You know the only person who can stop Russell Westbrook right now? Russell Westbrook.