No contest: Russell Westbrook's good outweighs Russell Westbrook's bad
Whatever magical equation you use to rate an NBA player's worth, the good far outweighs the bad when it comes to point guard Russell Westbrook. Yet as the spotlight zooms in a little tighter each day on the Oklahoma City Thunder, national media continue to portray that the bad far outweighs the good.
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The latest case-in-point came Thursday night when Westbrook never left the bench in the fourth quarter of Game 2 at Dallas. In the process, a 106-100 road victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals somehow got lost, almost ignored.
Who won the game inexplicably became the second-most important story. Westbrook not playing somehow mattered more.
"The series is tied 1-1, you come home and you've got to deal with Russell Westbrook getting benched in the fourth quarter," Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said, shaking his head.
Skewed reporting frequently pops up every postseason. In this case, some who barely witnessed OKC during the regular season pontificate as though they've been camped inside the Thunder locker room all season long.
Suddenly, Westbrook and Kevin Durant don't get along. There's a rift inside the locker room because of a selfish Westbrook, and it's getting wider each day.
Westbrook has selfish moments, as does almost every athlete, but that doesn't necessarily make him a selfish person. One easy way to tell is by the way Westbrook handles interviews.
Ask Westbrook about himself, and he'll give stock answers that have been repeated incessantly since training camp. Ask Westbrook about a teammate, and his replies are thoughtful and insightful. This is not a trait of a selfish person.
All Westbrook wants is to win, but there are times winning doesn't look so pretty – such as Thursday night, when a frowning Westbrook was taken out for good late in the third quarter and strung together some choice words that would make Kobe Bryant blush.
There also have been times when some of the prettiest moves you've ever seen have come compliments of the unfathomably athletic Westbrook.
When your starting point guard leads the NBA in turnovers, missed layups and blown dunks, tough decisions must be made and proper discretion is required. This is where Thunder coach Scott Brooks excelled on Thursday night by choosing to sit Westbrook.
With 3:15 remaining, the Thunder leading by 10 and reserve point guard Eric Maynor comfortably running the show, why wouldn't Brooks choose to be safe rather than potentially sorry? The Thunder didn't need a Westbrook eruption. It needed the serenity and stability of Maynor.
There is a risk/reward to Westbrook that is unrivaled in the league.
Roughly 20 percent of the time, Brooks must be thinking, “Russ, why on earth did you just do that?”
The other 80 percent of the time, Brooks must be wondering, “Russ, how on earth did you just do that?”
There's a reason why Western Conference coaches voted Westbrook as a reserve for this year's All-Star Game ahead of players such as Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Jason Kidd and Monta Ellis.