Time To Give Westbrook His Due





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Not everyone is enamored with the antics and other animations that come along with Russell Westbrook‘s game. We can’t tell you how many times someone has emailed complaining about his holstering-the-six-shooters celebration after draining a 3-pointer or the chest pounding he does after a wicked dunk.

But is there anyone out there still crazy enough to deny that the Thunder’s All-Star point guard has become an absolute force of nature this season?

(And yes, even without Derrick Rose on the floor for the Bulls yesterday, Westbrook was a sight to behold.)

This is not just a one-game reaction. It’s been a season filled with signature moments from the Thunder star (not named Kevin Durant) that has forced many of us who were critical of Westbrook’s game in the past to reconsider our evaluations of what work he could do in a tandem with one of the league’s other bright young stars.

Westbrook’s already made his way into the Top 5 on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder. And for whatever it’s worth, his usage rate this season ranks slightly above Durant’s.

It certainly helps to have a veteran “big brother” like Kendrick Perkins around to keep these young stars grounded. It also helps that Perkins isn’t afraid to tell Westbrook and Durant exactly what they need to hear at this stage of their careers, in regards to how they navigate this delicate whose-team-is-it-anyway dynamic that has caused so much fuss the past two seasons.

In fact, it was a heart-to-heart with Perkins that helped Westbrook settle into the zone he’s in right now — he’s averaging 28.2 points, 5.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting better than 50 percent (.507) from the floor.  More from Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman:

Westbrook used Sunday’s 92-78 win over Chicago to confirm what has been clear for weeks: he’s in the midst of the best ball of his career.

“He’s grown up right in front of our eyes,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

Over the past six games, Westbrook has averaged 28.7 points on 50.3 percent shooting. He’s added 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals and just 2.5 turnovers.

Beyond the raw numbers, Westbrook has demolished nearly every opponent he’s faced in the past six games, and it’s how he’s attacked his assignments that has stood out most.

The winning streak started with Westbrook thoroughly outplaying Clippers guard Chris Paul. Westbrook scored just 19 points but was terrific defending the pick-and-roll and limiting Paul’s effectiveness. Two nights later, Westbrook scored a career-high 45 points in 50 minutes against Minnesota and never lost his head against the always irritating J.J. Barea.

Last Sunday against Miami, Westbrook played through a 4-for-16 shooting night and remained sound defensively while continuing to get teammates involved offensively. Against Portland and the Lakers last week, Westbrook was simply unstoppable, scoring 32 and 36 points, respectively.

And with the Bulls playing without Derrick Rose (groin) on Sunday, Westbrook abused backup C.J. Watson in the post, in transition, in the pick-and-roll and from his sweet spot, the free-throw line extended elbow. His final line: a game-high 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting, three rebounds, five assists, four steals, zero turnovers and zero fouls.

“To me, he’s fearless,” said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau. “He sets the tone for them. All you have to do is look at their record. That says a lot.”

More impressive, and much more important to us, is the growth in Westbrook’s game that has been evident from the start of the season until now.

We pounded on Westbrook early in the season for his high turnover numbers, which is really not that shocking for a player who handles the ball as much as he does. In the 34 games before the All-Star break he averaged 4.2 turnovers. But in the 17 games since, that number has shrunk to 2.8.

Those people wanting to write Westbrook off after he struggled during the playoffs last season, particularly in the Western Conference finals, need to man up and give the kid his due. It’s time. And he’s earned it.


29 Comments

  1. Steve Vear says:

    I had written about this topic on my blog prior to Sekou’s comments. You can’t argue, Westbrook is playing the best ball of his career and for me is vital to OKC making a run for the chip! I do have issues with him taking too many shots and trying to be the main guy over KD…but they are winning and his numbers are a big reason as to why. Check out my blog post here if you are interested to see what I had to write on Westbrook being the villain:

    http://www.courtsideblog.com/2012/03/28/westbrook-why-the-villain/

  2. jan279 says:

    Why complain about Westbrook’s chest pounding?! So you want officials to call technicals on chest pounding?! To all the people complaining about these matters, I advice you to stop watching NBA games if you’re gonna continue with the irritant complaints because you’re just contributing in destroying the essence of the of basketball.

  3. lakermig says:

    i am a huge lakers fans but if OKC manage to keep this team together or at least most of it ie..harden,russell and kd the entire league is in for some big trouble..big three/miami included

  4. Rain Maker says:

    Thunder will have rings!!!

  5. dre says:

    Westbrook still needs to perform in the playoffs, and realize that Durant should be the closer

  6. johnzaga says:

    russell doesn’t give a damn! he plays the game the way it should be played: emotional, energetic, and with a commitment to winning

  7. Blah blah blah. We have an awesome team! All jealous haters are coming out. That’s great cus it’s means we’re good. Westbrook always had this in him. But don’t think he won’t have his ups and downs. That’s when “team” takes over. And we have an AWESOME TEAM! ThunderUp!!!

  8. doe columbus says:

    for all the people who dont understand basketball the Thunder have a better record when Westbrook scores more than Durant!! STOP HATING ON WESTBROOK TALKING TO SKIP BAYLESS OF ESPN FIRST TAKE MOST OF ALL!! All you want is ATTENTION. you cant possibly be that dumb,right?

  9. His play recently has moved him up the pg ladder and the mvp ladder..I don’t know if he would’ve had the same results if DRose played, but very impressive..peep my list Mindofmattman.com best PGs

  10. Law064 says:

    I have to agree Prix is never right, and @Mgrier your also correct Durant will get a ring before Lebron. Bottom line is that Westbrook has settled into his role as scorer slash floor general. Durant will always be that 1st option but Westbrook is a great 2nd option and they can switch roles as 1st and 2nd option. The most important thing is that they are playing well together and not letting their ego’s to force them to compete against each other. I’m a bulls fan and have to say they really handed it to them yesterday. Rose or no Rose they really jumped on the bulls yesterday. The bulls have been playing well without Rose but they really crushed the bulls in the 3rd quarter. Westbrook has been improving his game and for this 1,2 punch of OKC they will be a force to recond with.

  11. da boss says:

    im not a lebron fan or nothing but lebron does deserve mvp this year. and one game against the heat the thunder won. watch if the heat play the thunder in the playoffs james and wade will win one if not next year when they have nash a real point guard

  12. justin says:

    I’m a bulls fan. Prix is losing his head, you’re saying that KD is overrated to make lebron look so good. You’re the only one that saying that. Lebron is a great player but KD is playing better than lebron this season. KD deserves the award this year. I don’t agree that Westbrook is better than rose. Rose is injured that’s why he is not in mvp talk. Rose and Westbrook are both great players. KD/Westbrook/Rose/Love are not yet in their prime. It’s crazy how these guys are playing right now.

  13. legwkio says:

    Who doesn’t love Westbrook’s theatrics?It makes the game much more enjoyable and fun to watch whenever you see him do the six shooters or the after dunk poses.

  14. matt says:

    I’ve always been a person that has owned up to his mistakes, and i made a big mistake in my top-10 pg list because westbrook should have been ranked higher… http://www.mindofmattman.com/2012/03/best-pg-in-nba-2012-year-of-pg-cont.html

  15. wow says:

    i was gonna say here come the heat bandwagon fans but prix already show up before i can say.
    heat fans are so scare of KD balling so good now they say KD don’t deserve MVP cuz KD got westbrook…
    oh really??? so you are saying westbrook is better than umm….. i don’t know say that #3 guy in miami??
    the same #3 all you bandwagon fans keep bragging about top5 players in NBA …..
    so what it is gonna be? you can’t take out credit from KD for westbrook being so good if westbrook is not as good as your #3.
    anyway i got to say westbrook is amazing lately he’s not like a bosh. if KD and RW playing this good your precious MVP is not gonna get championships, not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4……..
    if okc playing this good maybe LBJ need to add more stars in his team not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5,………
    hey i heard G Hill, Nash, D will, Josh smith and even DH12 could be in market in this summer…you might wanna look into it and plus phil jackson might be itching to come back coaching too

  16. slowpez10 says:

    What kind of idiots complain about Westbrook’s chest pounding?

  17. MGrier says:

    Durant definetly deserves MVP this is the year he finally is getting the recognition he deserves.Lebron fans are idiots.Lebron is the most overated player in basketball history.And Kevin Durant will definetly get a ring before Lebron !!!!!!!!!

  18. allaroundballer says:

    Westbrook got his season, but you’ll see in 10 seasons Durant will be better and more stable. It’s the the way he plays, I mean you can shoot till 30s. Durant will be the next Nowitzki or better

  19. TTKIN says:

    The Thunder have been so dominant this year because neither Westbrook nor Durant care “who’s team it is”. In the past, everyone has argued who’s team it was saying Westbrook wanted to be the #1 above Durant. This year though, they both got their contract extensions, and both are having the best seasons of their respective careers. They know if they can play well together, they have a chance to get multiple championships in the next deacde.

    People need to understand how good the OKC front office is. they have a ridiculously small market compared to other teams out there, but they have managed to set it up so that not only do they have 2 superstars under max contracts, and a supporting cast that rivals anyone in basketball, but they also managed to make it so that dam near every member of the team is under 30 years old. 90′s belonged to Chicago, 00′s belonged to the Lakers, 10s will belong to OKC. Miami may be good, but why put money on a team that Lebron already said he’s considering leaving when this contract is up.

  20. prix says:

    For a lot of reasons…Westbrook play better than Rose this season..even Parker, Nash and Kobe comes from behind…KD is just too overrated…James deserves the MVP…

    • david says:

      stop hating on kd just to make your case for lebron. kd didnt look overrated when he shut lebron down n lit him up at the same time in a blow out win. lebron didnt even want to check him anymore after a few baskets so much for the i can shut any one down n i guard whoever is hot mindset. wade is the best player on the heat he has just been hurt. basically what your saying is it should count against durant that westbrook is playing good but not against lebron for playing with bosh & wade. another biased,stupid lebron fan.

      • LANDIM says:

        Prix is never right ,LOL
        And you sir are no right either…
        You cant give durant a mvp award for just one game.
        Spurs beat OKC twice this year and it wasnt even close ,should tp9 get the award than?
        The MVP for now is going to Lebron ,but if this slump he’s in dont go away.Durant deserves the award

    • Mike says:

      If KD is selfish like Westbrook, he can easilyscore 40+ points every night….

  21. phillip says:

    Westbrook is a beast on the court. Durant should always be the first option, but Westbrook is more than capable of getting it done on the court. To everyone that has a issue with the gestures after he scores….needs to stop being so sensitive, this is basketball and its a part of it. It’s harmless and the “real” fans love it.