So You Really Want To Blame Russell Westbrook?

Basketball, Bull City — By on June 18, 2012 at 5:00 am

On all social media notes, people have a hate/hate relationship with Russell Westbrook. Sure he gets a little out of control sometimes, but make no mistakes about it; Russell Westbrook is a great player. No one can really argue against the fact that he is one of the 15 best players in the NBA. Russie just happens to play with a top 3 player who everyone thinks should be getting the majority of the shots.

Kevin Durant deserves the ball. As much as any other super star in the league. But how do you tell a point guard with a shooting guard mentality that he should be second fiddle, when he has the better match up most of the game? When you look at the Heat’s roster, there isn’t a player on it with the foot speed and explosion of Russell Westbrook. He can post up little guards and blow by the big guards with relative ease.

Kevin Durant is a talent. He does things offensively that only a few players in the league can actually do. Make no mistake about it, Durant can score and score in bunches. Durant is the centerpiece, but Westbrook is the flatware that makes the settings look great. When he scores and distributes, he is a menace and makes life miserable for anyone trying to guard him.

For some reason everyone wants Russie to be a traditional point guard. I’m not sure why guys on the major sports networks refuse to give the man the credit he deserves. All he does is receive criticism and lack of adoration from analyst after analyst when in fact he is a key cog in the Oklahoma City Thunder machine.

True he is different, but Westbrook can do it all. He has the ability to create for his teammates and himself. He has the quickest first step in the league (even when Derrick Rose is healthy) and he is almost un-guardable when he is operating from the right side of the floor because he finishes with his left so strong. I can honestly say that you will have a hard time finding anyone as explosive as Russie when he takes that burst towards the basket.

However, Westbrook has one problem…people want him to be something that he is not. People want him to be Steve Nash, a pass-first point guard who scores only if the team needs it.

Taking that aggressive behavior away from Westbrook makes him average at best. People don’t understand how well Westbrook and Durant compliment each other. It always seems that when one of them is off, the other picks up the slack. My question is why are people questioning a team’s play when they are in the NBA finals? The formula got them this far, why try and change the recipe now? The answer is simple; it’s not traditional.

The problem with pro sports is that everyone wants vanilla. Everyone wants traditional measures. Nobody wants to step outside the box and change the formula for success. It’s one of the reasons why everyone will overdraft sorry seven foot big men who will never make it in the league over a proven six foot six guy who is an in between player with a lot of game.

The Thunder knew what they were getting when they drafted Westbrook. If they didn’t they would have drafted another point guard a year later instead of James Harden. They knew what they were putting together. All of a sudden now people are raising questions so you begin to question your formula. Once you start questioning the formula then nobody is going to want to sample your product. People need to leave Westbrook alone, he can’t change over night. If his style doesn’t fit, they need to address it in the off season. However, I don’t see any of that coming any time soon. If it does happen, the Thunder will get a lot more than a first round pick for a talent like him.

Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!

Joe Simmons

Color Commentator for Time Warner Cable Sports Network NC/SC/OH and NCCU Sports Network. Washed up athlete who used to ball, now I write and call.

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  • Jonathan Grant says:

    It’s not about how many shots he takes. The last two games he HASN’T been playing like he’s been playing all year. He was completely out of the rhythm of the team and almost frantically trying to force what wasn’t there. He’s gotten a lot better about that each season, but he needs to be able to recognize when he’s in that state and focus on running the offense instead of trying to score. The great ones like Jordan and even Durant recognize when they are shooting poorly and find other ways to score (like getting to the free throw line, throwing screens, passing, etc) and let the game come to them.A few minutes into the second half of the last game Westbrook did just that and eventually the game came to him! Before that, he may put up some good numbers, but his stalling of the team kills momentum and puts the team in a huge hole. I love Russell, but he HAS to figure that out or he will lose games for us!

  • CWill says:

    Powerful article, best one in a while. I still love Russ, but like everyone else, I do tend to get mad from time to time when he does make his “Dammit, Russ!” plays but then he goes and does something crazy (hits a big shot, monster dunk, an oop pass, knocks down a 3 guns ablazin) and then you’re like….there’s not a PG in the LEAGUE that can do that. The dude is the most explosive player in the league this side of LeBron and could even pass him soon in the category. He can be my favorite player one night, to being disappointing the next. He is so Jekyll and Hyde it is beyond belief. But that’s why we love him, and that criticism is continuing to fuel the fire that he plays with night in and night out. I have realized you have to take the good with the bad, no matter how much it hurts.

  • JT says:

    Westbrook is very important to this team.. sometimes he can be a gift and a curse for this team.. I’ve only seen him play skep imo in game two for a small period of time. He needs to shoot a better % but the shots he has taken for the most part have been good looks.. I hope nobody dogs him for that 3 last night the kid was wide open what was he suppose to do? Russ just has to play his game and just have a Lil more control when attacking …

  • Excellent piece. I’m on board with this 100 percent. And I have to applaud Scott Brooks for the way he handles Westbrook. He isn’t trying to make him something he’s not, and the Thunder are in the Finals with one of the youngest teams in the league.

    I thought it was really poignant last night when Jeff Van Gundy was applauding the way Brooks has let Westbrook be who he is and not trying to change so much of his game that it’s detrimental, then saying that his biggest coaching regret is handling Steve Francis the opposite way, trying to make him something he wasn’t.

    Sometimes, you just gotta let guys be who they are, especially when they are as talented as Westbrook. Yes, he has to work on some things, but he’s also one of the best players in the league. Let’s not forget he’s still a young buck here who has gotten better and smarter every season. Let Russell be Russell.

  • Joe Simmons says:

    All of you bring valid arguments about the state of Westbrooks game. Do any of you believe he needs to change for the Thunder to be successful?

    • Granted, they’re down 2-1 in the series, but I’d say they are already successful. Since drafting Westbrook, they went from 23 wins to 50, 55 and then 47 wins in the regular season, the 47 being the second best in the West this year, lost in the 1st round, then the Conference Finals and now are in the NBA Finals. So, uh, they are pretty damn successful with Westbrook just as he is.

      Would him improving help? Of course, and he’s still real young so he absolutely can improve. But does he have to “change” per se? Not when what he brings to the table has helped this franchise get to where it’s at.

  • Clay says:

    You can try to justify his dumb plays if you want but he is killing their chances of winning because he makes bad plays at the wrong time! He kille their Vance to win game three when he turned the ball over, took three bad shots ( in a row) then had a charge in the 3rd quarter! These were all in a row! His selfish play is making the other players take bad shots because they don’t know when they will get the ball again. That’s bad basketball! That’s why brooks took him out, which is what he should of some! The only problem is he should have went back with Durant when he did it! If Mayor was not hurt. Westbrook would be on the bench more!

  • Russ says:


    There are 28 coaches out there who wish their PG had guided their team to the Finals. Who was the last one his age to do this? Magic?

    Cut him some slack. He’ll get better. If he’s going to the Finals now, I like his potential. LOL

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