LOS ANGELES — You can take the kid out of California, but you can’t take the California out of... Forget it. Who are we trying to kid? Russell Westbrook has forgotten his roots. Gone all Okie on us. Humbler than an Elk City rancher. More modest than an Okarche school marm.
The Thunder drafts a salty LA gym rat, and he turns all salt-of-the-Earth. Henry Bellmon, gentleman point guard. Here was Westbrook’s reaction Monday to the idea that he should scrap the aw-shucks and start taking over this Thunder-Laker playoff series. "Nah,” Westbrook said. Nah? They don’t say nah in La-La Land. They don’t say nah on the streets of Hawthorne, where Westbrook grew up hard by LA International Airport. They don’t say nah in UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, where in summertime legions of ex-Bruins harden themselves for the NBA rigors. "My job is to get everyone else involved,” Westbrook said. Wrong-o, country boy. That was your job. Your job now is to get the Thunder abreast of the Lakers, and the best way to do that is quit passing the potatoes and start piling your own plate high. Westbrook was the best player on the Staples Center stage Sunday. The Thunder was sucking air in the second quarter, when Westbrook quit singing kum-ba-yah and started attacking the basket. He obliterated the Lakers’ old-man point guard, Derek Fisher. Westbrook finished with 23 points and eight assists. Made 10 of 16 shots and committed just one turnover. If Westbrook had come out dribbles ablazing, the Thunder might be the talk of the league right now with a Game 1 upset. Instead, the Lakers won 87-79. "That’s just Russell’s game,” said teammate Jeff Green. "He loves getting players involved in the game early. And when he feels the need to take over, that’s what he does.” OK. Feel the need long about tipoff time tonight. In some ways, you can’t blame Westbrook. For more than a year after he hit Oklahoma City, people kept saying he wasn’t a point guard. So he’s gone all John Stockton on us. Which is fine in the regular season, when in even this magical Thunder year, this season is not about this season. But these are the playoffs. Protocol stays home. The future can wait. Win any way you can.