Russell Westbrook divided the basketball world with a polarizing answer to a question posed by the Daily Oklahoman’s Berry Trammel after Sunday’s Game 4 loss to the Houston Rockets.
Entire back and forth pic.twitter.com/Kg4uxFGc3q
— Thunder Digest (@Thunder_Digest) April 23, 2017
Divided being the keyword. Many applauded Westbrook’s attempt to use the podium as a stage to shield any and all flack his teammates might receive with a question like Trammel asked. Others found the answer, and subsequent commanding of Steven Adams to keep quiet, as another negative example of Westbrook lording over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
At this point it should be obvious. The question was fine. The Westbrook answer was fine. Trammel has a job to do as well as Westbrook.
It is interesting to point out the Thunder point guard’s mindset in choosing the path he set upon when he cut off Adams. Westbrook has seen this movie before.
For eight seasons, Westbrook was the dynamic number two man on a Finals caliber roster. While few questioned his talent, many questioned the chemistry between he and Kevin Durant.
“Are they actually friends?”
“Can they co-exist on the court together?”
“Who’s team is this and who will take the last shot?”
These questions are all legitimate. There were numerous examples over the eight year run where Durant and Westbrook’s on-court play did not work well. The “Batman & Robin” concept reigned supreme over the basketball world of talkshows and daily radio.
While a question may come with honest intentions and seek to find an answer that many would like to know, answers, soundbites and quotes have a history of destroying teams.
Did those questions during the Durant/Westbrook years push the former Thunder superstar to the West Coast? Certainly not. But it did create a dark cloud that seemed to follow the team during every disappointing loss.
Perhaps Westbrook remembered the atmosphere a legitimate, but somewhat loaded question could create. Especially in a time where the Thunder have let two playoff wins slip through their fingers.
It is no secret why Oklahoma City is worse without their MVP candidate on the floor. Norris Cole or Semaj Christon are perhaps the worst options at the backup point guard position amongst teams in the postseason. The rest of the Thunder’s bench has talent but is marred by inexperience or bad match ups.
Let us not forget Houston possesses a historic NBA offense to go along with some excellent role players off the bench that the Thunder simply can’t matchup against without Westbrook.
Even Trammel admitted in the Daily Oklahoman’s Thunder podcast “Thunder Buddies” that he knew the answer, he simply wanted Adams to give his unique brand of insight. While that is fair and perfectly reasonable, Westbrook saw it as a potential landmine. Something that could have produced a headline quote and lead to a toxic environment in the future.
Both men did their jobs well.
Westbrook is the leader of a team with a plethora of young talent, one-way players and not-ready-for-primetime stars. He is the unquestioned leader, alpha-dog and also happens to be one of the five best players in the world. With this large of a drop-off comes a responsibility to back your teammates.
This was a game that the Thunder controlled and dominated. Abysmal foul shooting by Andre Roberson — after playing perhaps the best defense seen by an individual player ever in the Chesapeake Arena — led to the collapse. Poor defense by Adams led to 34 year old Nene having a career day from the floor. Not to mention the well-documented +/- with Westbrook on and off the floor.
It is apparent why Oklahoma City lost this game. It had little to do with their leader and more to do with his teammate’s shortcomings compared to their more talented Rocket counterparts.
Do you think the Thunder’s leader wanted to address that and indirectly bury his teammates on a national stage? Westbrook has requested for people not to refer to the rest of the Thunder as a “supporting cast,” but rather his teammates. This was another extension of that request.
Whether it will have the effect that Westbrook wants still remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the teammates love playing with their MVP. Sunday may have been another example of that love.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!