In defence of Russell Westbrook

At half time during Game 2 of the NBA finals Magic Johnson stated, without a hint of hyperbole, that what he had seen from Russell Westbrook was the worst performance by a point guard in NBA finals history, wow. Strong words, but of course this comment was just as ridiculous as it is incorrect. (For a start Westbrook wasn’t even the worst point guard in that game – Mario Chalmers had 3 points, 3 steals, 4 rebounds, and 3 turnovers while shooting a terrible 14% – Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 2 turnovers while shooting a not great 39%, close one Magic. . .)

Magic wasn’t just talking about the stats though; he was implying it is Russell’s job, as a point guard, to get the team going and to get everyone, especially Kevin Durant, involved. (Not many mentions that Durant is being denied the ball by arguably the best perimeter defender in the game in LeBron James, not so easy to get him “involved” in that circumstance.) These types of opinions are now widely expressed as the media have created a common theme of the Westbrook/Durant good cop/bad cop double act. We have the humble superstar, Kevin Durant, taking all of the plaudits while the selfish, angry and reckless Russell Westbrook bearing the brunt of the negativity when things don’t go well, or sometimes even when they do

Russell Westbrook - An angry young man!

Magic Johnson is considered one of the greatest players of all time and maybe the best point guard to ever play the game so it comes as somewhat of a surprise that he is so completely and utterly wrong on this issue. There is no right or wrong way to play the game of basketball, there are as many different styles of play as there is coaches teaching the game, and every team is constituted differently. In order for the Thunder to be successful Russell has to be aggressive or as Stephen A. Smith puts it “horrible, pathetic, egregious and selfish”.

The Thunder start games with three players on the court that are considered defensive specialists, little or no offensive production is expected from Perkins, Ibaka and Sefolosha. That leaves the burden of putting the ball through the hoop on the shoulders of Durant and Westbrook and this often involves them breaking their men down and making tough shots. I don’t particularly like the style of ball that the Thunder play, too many isolation’s in the half court, not enough movement off the ball. I would much rather watch the brand of basketball that the San Antonio Spurs played this season, the best team in basketball, right? The same San Antonio Spurs that lost four straight to the Thunder after OKC had easily finished off two other previous championship teams in rounds one and two. This Thunder team are the second youngest team to ever make it to the NBA finals and they have made it this far on the shoulders of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook carrying the offensive load, it would be crazy to try and mess with that winning formula at this stage.

The good news is that Russell Westbrook doesn’t care what you think, he doesn’t care what Magic thinks and he certainly doesn’t care what Stephen A.Smith or Skip Bayless think. This Thunder team show no respect for their opponents, are loyal to their coach and have ultra confidence in their abilities. While I don’t like the X and O’s of their basketball strategy I love their aggression and attitude when they are playing the game. Westbrook embodies these characteristics and I have no doubt as soon as game 4 tips off he will be in attack mode once again.

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One Jerry Springer style final thought of the day; these are the statistics for the 2010-2011 NBA regular season MVP, Derrick Rose, followed by the statistics for a greedy ball hog with a poor shot selection and who has never been in a realistic MVP conversation, interesting.

GP

Min

FG%

3P%

FT%

Reb

Ass

TO

St

Blk

PPG

81

37.4

45%

33%

86%

4.1

7.7

3.4

1.0

0.6

25.0

82

37.7

43%

32%

79%

5.4

5.9

2.2

1.6

0.4

22.2

 

 

 


About

Niall is the Co-Founder of the Courtside Collective and www.BasketballDirect.com . He was one of the founding members of North Star in 2002. He has coached at a variety of levels from kids to senior men's teams. He is currently coach of the LYIT National League team and women's college team.

2 Comments

  1. Paul Dick

    / Reply

    Who cares if he doesnt pass when he can dunk like that!


  2. Niall McDermott Post author

    / Reply

    Exactly!

    Simmons put up a pretty good article about him today:

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8077467/that-boy-competed


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