Nightwing is a DC comic book character who on occasion assists Batman in his endeavors but is not his sidekick like a Robin. Nightwing can work alone, and be seen on the same level as Batman on occasion. Russell Westbrook is Batman. Always has been always will be, but Oklahoma City now has a second superhero in town, and that superhero is Paul George.
In the NBA, “Batman and Robin” has become a thing in which media and fans use to describe a duo on a team, think Kobe Bryant and Shaq, Shaq and Penny Hardaway, or finally, one a little closer to home is Kevin Durant and Westbrook. In every one of those duos, something happened to fracture the duo, and they all went their separate ways. This new partnership in Oklahoma City though feels right, it feels like a perfect combination, a bit like peanut butter and jelly.
George and Westbrook are yin and yang. Westbrook is a force of nature that is coming at your neck every single night with no remorse, he keeps defenses on their heels whereas George is more of a cool, calm and collected kind of operator where Westbrook is loud, he roars, he is demonstrative where George is a silent assassin, a thief in the night.
George brings something special to the table, he is an elite defender with a defense-first mentality that pairs perfectly with Oklahoma City’s best defender Andre Roberson, who so far this season when paired with George, has made the Thunder into one of the elite teams in the NBA for defense.
This season George is having a career best year in three-point shooting, hitting 43.2 percent of his shots, while also shooting 44.8 percent from the field, that could be attributed to playing alongside an elite point guard like Westbrook. On the defensive side of the ball, George is in the running for defensive player of the year, leading the league in steals averaging 2.2 per game while also leading the league in deflections per game and total deflections with 4.4 per game and 247 deflections for the season.
George has brought something to the table Westbrook and the Thunder desperately needed after last season’s one man rampage. It’s someone Westbrook can rely on, someone to take a share of the workload off of Westbrook’s shoulders. When Westbrook passes the ball to George Westbrook can trust George is going to make the right decision in either making the extra pass or taking an important shot. Another problem George has assisted in fixing is when Westbrook has a seat on the bench, the lead is not going to become a deficit by the time he checks back in, like it was the case last season.
The skill George brings to the table more than anything is his elite defense. George is going to shut down the oppositions best player whether that’s LeBron James or Kevin Durant, George can and will compete with them on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. That’s what Westbrook was missing last season. It’s someone who can bring the fight and give the opposition someone else to worry about, and have to plan for when coming up against the Thunder.
With all the positives George brings to the Thunder, he also brings along a big question and problem. He’s only contracted to be in Oklahoma City for the 2017-18 season. Then, he has the option to enter free agency. The people of Oklahoma will be praying to the basketball gods that Westbrook, Sam Presti, and the organization has done all they can do to make George want to stay in Oklahoma City, to continue on the battle to bring a championship to Oklahoma.
Some inside the organization saw this as an opportunity for Westbrook to rewrite a narrative that has been told about him. The incorrect narrative that’s “You can’t play with Westbrook.” People in the media point out James Harden who left through trade, Durant who left in free agency, plus a sleuth of other former teammates. The “You can’t play with Westbrook” narrative got louder after the George trade that saw Presti trade Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Oladipo went on to become a first time All-Star this season for the Indiana Pacers. This season, Westbrook has gone out of his way to make George feel welcomed and wanted in Oklahoma City, a big moment came when George was snubbed for the All-Star team.
“Unbelievable. I think it’s just outrageous, in my opinion,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know who else made the team but got four people from one team, you’ve got guys complaining about getting snubbed until they get in, you’ve got guys just talking about it all the time.”
Then, there was this past weekend at the All-Star media day, when George was at the podium talking to the media, some fans decided to chant “We Want Paul! We Want Paul!” While Westbrook was sitting a short distance away talking to media he overheard the chants, and stopped mid-sentence to yell out “Paul ain’t going nowhere!”It’s over for that!”.
George to his credit has been very receptive and appreciative of Westbrook’s efforts to recruit him this season talking to Rachael Nichols of ESPN, George talked openly about what Westbrook’s words and actions have meant to him, and the effect they are having on his future.
“Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming, even more, easier to make, is the character Russ [has],” George said. “A stand-up guy and he has his teammate’s back.”
Paul George has shown he isn’t just a Russ sidekick. George is a star. He is a Defensive Player of the Year caliber player. George is worth the risk Presti took trading for him. Come the start of the 2018-19 season, if all of Westbrook’s hard work has paid off and George is in a Thunder jersey, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a real threat to becoming NBA title contenders. Especially, with a healthy Andre Roberson returning.
One thing has become clear this season PG is no Robin.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!