As the saying goes, sometimes you have to “Let Westbrook be Westbrook.” Yet down the road, his antics could haunt the Thunder and Russell Westbrook as the season marches along.
Westbrook picked up his ninth and 10th technical fouls of the season Thursday night against Memphis in the third quarter of a 114-80 loss. The two technicals resulted in an automatic ejection from the game. The ejection was Westbrook’s fifth of his career.
His ejection Thursday came after he argued what he thought was an air ball by the Grizzlies and an incorrect resetting of the shot clock. While JaMychal Green took free throws, Westbrook blasted the officials and appeared to say, “That’s bulls—,” over and over. Afterwards, official Brian Forte gave Westbrook a technical and then a subsequent technical seconds after.
Westbrook finished with 21 points, 5 rebounds, no assists and 6 turnovers in 23 minutes. It was only the third game of Westbrook’s career he didn’t record an assist.
During the 2014-15 season, Westbrook led the NBA with 17 techs. This season, Westbrook is already at 10, which leads the league.
Westbrook is creeping ever so slightly to an unfavorable number. 16.
16 technicals in one season means an automatic one-game suspension. The player receives a warning from the NBA after his 12th tech, according to the league website.
A player is suspended an additional game for every other technical foul after 16. If Westbrook were to receive an 18th or 20th technical, he would be suspended an additional game.
Technicals aren’t cheap either. Westbrook has accumulated $27,000 in fines from his technicals and ejection this season. Westbrook was fined $2,000 for being ejected Thursday. And the numbers only go up, as players are fined $4,000 for techs 11-15 and $5,000 for each additional technical foul after.
A year ago to the day of his ejection, Westbrook told ESPN’s Royce Young he was “done” getting technicals after “learning” the officials don’t ever change their call.
“I’m done with those days,” Westbrook said said. “I learned in the summertime, once they make a call, they ain’t changing it. Took me a while, but I learned it.”
“I watched film. I watched all my techs and all the dumb s— I was doing, so I decided to tell myself, there’s no need to argue. They’re not changing it, so move on.”
Westbrook isn’t moving on this season. His screams of and-1 when he drives to the basket are heard in arenas around the league and he’s constantly barking at officials to change calls. Repeatedly, Westbrook will yell at an official after he insists he was fouled instead of getting back on defense. Westbrook sulks back on defense as opponents get a layup or an open three from the 4-on-5 opportunity.
After Westbrook’s ejection, he said he doesn’t “get the benefit of the doubt most of the time,” and he also said he gets technicals “just for talking” to the referees.
A year ago, Westbrook was right. Officials don’t change calls. There will never be a perfectly officiated game in the NBA, let alone any sport. Being a doctor and an official are the two professions where anything less than 100 percent isn’t satisfactory in the eyes of most. Yet Westbrook’s constant chirping hasn’t changed anything yet and it won’t change anything in the future either.
The only thing that will come of Westbrook’s irate temper towards officials on the court is more technicals and an eventual suspension. The Thunder have zero identity without Westbrook and they cannot afford to lose him due to an easily avoidable circumstance.
Westbrook’s ferocious attitude and attacking mentality are a few of the reasons he’s one of the greatest players in the league. He’s having an incredible season, an all-time great one. Averaging a triple-double has been done once in the league’s history.
The Thunder are a better team when Westbrook plays in attack mode and leaves other players in awe as throws down thunderous slams and hits the pull-up jumpers in transition. Yet his behavior needs to change for the betterment of the team.
Oklahoma City needs to “Let Westbrook be Westbrook,” but Westbrook needs to focus on his game and not try to officiate it as well.Looking for Oklahoma City Thunder tickets? Thunder Digest has you covered at Totallytickets.com! We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Our Podcast is on iTunes. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!