Westbrook’s recklessness doesn’t earn him any passes when he fails to deliver.
My grandma always told me that there’s nothing worse than being loud and wrong.
She’d always remind us that we have a right to express ourselves any way we wish, but if we choose the low road we better be able to back it up because obnoxious people have few friends when they fail.
Grandma also told us that if you’re going to play the villain, just understand that everyone outside of your family will be rooting for your demise.
As unprecedented a player as Russell Westbrook has been — averaging a triple-double in three straight seasons with athleticism that ranks in the Top 5 all-time — if OKC falls to Portland in the 2019 NBA playoffs it will be the third straight season Westbrook has been bounced in the first round.
Westbrook’s reputation as a shaky playoff performer continues. He’s shooting 36 percent from the floor and has had two 14-point outputs in his four games. OKC is down 3-1 and looking at the front door. Russ knows that this is not the time to be inconsistent. He still has the passion and talks hella junk, but his crunchtime output hasn’t been there. It’s looking more like insecurity than a passion for the game. Can’t have the bravado without the killer instinct.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 22, 2019
Lillard has clearly outperformed Westbrook and has personally lowered Westbrook’s value as an elite player. All of the criticisms that you hear about Westbrook have come to fruition in these playoffs. He plays selfishly at times and his shot stops dropping at the worst moments. He’s often out of control and too engaged in antagonistic activities. He loses the team flow and gets emotionally wrapped up in nonsense.
Nobody’s trying to control Westbrook or stop him from expressing himself. Golden State coach Steve Kerr, however, thinks Westbrook’s tumultuous relationship with the fans and media is a bad optic for the league.
“I just feel that we have to be very careful as a league…,” Kerr told reporters. “Fans love the game, the social dynamic, the fashion. But more than anything they love the connection they feel to the players. I think it’s important for players to understand that it’s a key dynamic to this league. I don’t think this is a healthy dynamic, for this league, for any player, any team, any local media, any national media.”
The good news for OKC is that they have two top 10 players in the game under contract for the next three years at least. When they are clicking, there’s no better tandem.
So these guys have some time to continue to build chemistry and OKC can put the proper pieces around them. Westbrook and George will get other opportunities to advance deep in the playoffs. It just won’t be this season. Barring a Portland collapse, it seems as if the basketball Gods finally scripted this one to favor Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, long regarded as two of the NBA’s most underrated stars.
Al-Farouq Aminu: 19 PTS, 9 REB
Moe Harkless: 15 PTS, 10 REB pic.twitter.com/sfx1xlqzcR
— NBA (@NBA) April 22, 2019
OKC has assumed Portland’s role as playoff underachievers. Last season, The Melo experiment ended in a disaster as OKC’s Big Three couldn’t advance past the first round.
Westbrook has to take his share of criticism that he’s sure to receive from a scorned media. He hasn’t nurtured the best relationship with them. Humility isn’t a part of his DNA, so ingratiating himself to people through anything other than his basketball prowess isn’t something Westbrook usually does.
And he certainly doesn’t believe in being gracious in defeat.
Russell Westbrook & OKC reporter Berry Tramel
2015: I just don't like you
2017: Hold up Steven
2019: Next question pic.twitter.com/RNCpinyLZ9
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 20, 2019
So those kinds of character flaws won’t help the negative narrative about his worth as a playoff player.
George needs to step up too. The forward hasn’t exactly been the model of efficiency. Hitting the big shot at the right time is what playoff ball is all about. OKC has failed to do that.
There’s nothing OKC can do but improve. All Westbrook can do in these playoffs is keep shooting and hope the shot falls. He’s not going to change how he plays. He can adjust if other players are hot, but ultimately he lets everyone know that OKC is his team. So buckle up and get ready for the social media assault on the former MVP. Right or wrong, nobody is going to feel sorry for him. That’s the dynamic he’s created for himself. It’s lonely at the top and the bottom for the league’s favorite “villain.”