Remember when cats used to float the insane idea around that Kevin Durant and OKC might be better without all-star combo guard Russell Westbrook? Some said he was the reason OKC faltered in 2011 and fell to Miami in the 2012 NBA Finals. Theoretically, they say, Durant is the better player and first offensive option, but Westbrook’s domination of the rock and pockets of erratic play have hindered Durant’s progress. Many flat out said Westbrook is overrating himself and taking point guard liberties with Durant’s touches.
Some haters also barked that the Thunder wouldn’t miss a beat when Harden caught a body and headed for Houston, but the Rockets are much better after adding the blossoming superstar. While still a dangerous draw, OKC has fallen off a bit.
Both trains of thought lasted about as long as it took Westbrook to suffer a freak injury in Game 2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder's first-round playoff matchup against the Rockets last season. Guard Patrick Beverly’s knee collided with Westbrook’s as Thunder head coach Scott Brooks called for a timeout. It was a fluke occurence, and avoidable really, but the result was a torn lateral meniscus for Westbrook.
There it was. Durant’s solo deal hand delivered to him. All of the Durant groupies were talking big smack about how the 6-10 scoring machine would put up A.I. numbers for the rest of the playoffs. Instead, Durant eventually crumbled under the his new load, and OKC was home with Westbrook after losing to Memphis in the next round.
That’s the moment everybody started respecting Westbrook’s gangster. The 24-year old rocket launcher was known to be a rugged, rack-attacker and clutch baller. However, much of the NBA community (if possible) underestimated the impact of Westbrook’s grit and tenacity. It’s clear that Westbrook is the heart and soul of OKC. Even with all of his flaws, Westbrook’s existence is one with the team’s fate.
During this ordeal, the public also found out that he’s the NBA’s Adrian Peterson. Not only does Westbrook handle his hardwood like a football player, he rehabs and heals like one too, returning to action just five months after receiving his first surgery and then a second arthroscopic procedure, to repair a loose stitch at the site of the surgically repaired lateral meniscus, on his right knee .
The prevailing thought was that he would miss the first four to six weeks of the 2013-14 NBA season.
As it turned out, the All-Star point guard only missed four days and just two of OKC’s games before making a dramatic and unexpected return at home against the surging Phoenix Suns on Sunday. Good thing, because folks were kicking and screaming for Westbrook, just two games into this season.
For the most part, it was a typical Westbrook game (21 points, seven dizzles, four rebounds and a swipe). He was a bit rusty and missed 11 of his 16 field goal attempts, but the energy and aggression he uniquely brings to the game was there and spread throughout his team. His invaluable ability to get to the line was also on full display. Westbrook went to the charity stripe 14 times in 33 minutes of work, and Durant’s game didn’t seem to suffer a bit as he dropped 33 points and was the recipient of a few of Westbrook’s seven assists. The 103-96 win was a huge difference from Friday night’s 100-81 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves , where KD (10 points) was M.I.A.
One thing we know is that Westbrook’s not down for the circus, and he forces his teammates to match his mayhem or get run off the court. With the loss of gunner Kevin Martin, who knows if OKC has the man power to match the Clippers and the Spurs? On a positive note, the main pieces of the only formula that has made them championship contenders is back in tact. Durant & Westbrook are inseparable like peanut butter and jelly in the hood, and EPMD on the mic.
They are equal partners on some strict business to make Thunder history. The dolo mission is dead. Time to break bread.