Western Conference Finals- How Will Westbrook Respond?

 

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The spotlight seems to zoom in a little tighter each day on Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russel Westbrook. That spotlight may never be brighter than tonight in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against The Dallas Mavericks.

The much maligned Westbrook sat out the entire 4th quarter Thursday night in Game 2 at Dallas. The Thunder bench, namely guards James Harden and Eric Maynor, made up for Westbrook’s absence, combining for 36 points in a 106-100 victory. Yet, somehow, this road victory was ignored because of a heated exchange between Westbrook and Thunder coach Scott Brooks. Who won the game seemingly became the second-most-important story. Westbrook not playing seemed to matter more.

My opinion on this ruckus is mixed. Is the criticism fair? I believe so. Westbrook was benched because of his selfish tendencies. Often, it seems as though he’s a shooting guard trying to play the point. There are times when he needs to pass the ball, yet he blatantly refuses, opting to be the hero and take the shot.

But I waffle back and forth on this because, in reality, Westbrook has been doing this throughout the entire season. He’s the second best player OKC has, Kevin Durant being number one. There’s a reason why he was voted second team all NBA over the likes of Steve Nash, Tony Parker, and Monta Ellis. He’s a phenomenal player and an outstanding athlete. His speed and quickness gives him plenty of open lanes to drive to the basket and score, and he often takes advantage of those opportunities. Even in the postseason we’ve seen Westbrook’s ability to produce points, putting up 40 in that 3OT classic with the Memphis Grizzlies.

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This guy is not a bad player, yet he’s been villainaized by the media and fans on Twitter constantly. He’s a legitimate all-star talent. The issue is that he’s playing the wrong position. The statement “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” fits perfectly here. No doubt, the Thunder NEED Westbrook if they want to contend for championships. KD can’t do it alone. But Maynor and Harden have shown sparks of greatness off the bench, specifically in that Game 2 win. I personally think these two players are better passers, and Westbrook is a better scorer. So why not change up the starting rotation? Insert Maynor at the point and play Westbrook at the 2 where he belongs. I personally just think Westbrook CAN’T play the point guard position in the NBA. It doesn’t suit his skill set.

It will be interesting to see how Westbrook responds to the benching and criticisms he’s faced in the past day. The team is fine. The chemistry is still there. There is NO locker room drama. Perkins, Collison, and Kevin Durant aren’t upset with Westbrook. Rather, they’re upset with the media, as they should be. I feel that some of the press are trying to create a rift between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook by making out this young guard to be selfish, ego-tistical and, well, just a jerk. This is a true travesty. It’s so early in these young players’ careers. Let them grow and develop their relationship, don’t hinder it. The future is bright for this young team, and stories ( or rather non-stories) like this don’t do anything to contribute to that.

Prediction: I think the media firestorm will strengthen the Thunder’s resolve to win this game. I expect Westbrook to respond well and have a great game with the support of his teammates and the rowdy OKC crowd behind him. The Oklahoma City Thunder win game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

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