Another day, another round of criticism for Russell Westbrook.
Shocking, I know.
The latest scuttlebutt surrounding the Thunder point guard involves what he supposedly didn't do after Game 5. He didn't shake hands with the Mavs after they clinched the Western Conference Finals. He didn't stay on the court to exchange pleasantries. He didn't go to the postgame interview room.
This is what fires up some people?
This is getting out of hand.
Listen, I'm all for putting blame where blame is due, especially when it involves athletes who make millions of dollars a year. I've even called out Westbrook during these playoffs for some poor decisions.
But this blog-based brouhaha about Westbrook's postgame activities goes too far. Most of it isn't fair, and worse, some of it isn't true.
Let's start with what's not fair.
After Wednesday night's game, several basketball bloggers wrote about Westbrook storming off the court without shaking hands with the Mavs. I don't remember seeing any of them actually there at the American Airlines Center, so as near as I can tell, they based their analysis off ESPN's broadcast.
You can YouTube it and see the clip for yourself, but after the final buzzer sounded, cameras cut from one scene to another.
Jason Terry hugging Shawn Marion.
Dirk Nowitzki high-fiving teammates.
Kevin Durant staring blankly at the court.
Then, the cameras cut to the tunnel where the Thunder exited the court. There, they showed Westbrook striding away from the arena. That launched the criticism of Westbrook, who according to some pundits, refused to shake hands and stormed off the court.
Never mind that 26 seconds passed from the final buzzer until that camera shot of Westbrook.
Westbrook didn't need that much time to get from where he was at the final buzzer to that tunnel. He was at the end of the court where the Thunder exited when the game ended, and that tunnel is no more than 30 feet from the edge of the court.
I covered all three games in Dallas; I saw it with my own eyes.
Westbrook didn't need 26 seconds to get from Point A to Point B.
Find a stopwatch and let 26 seconds run. It's amazing how long it was. You can do a lot during that amount of time.
Who knows what Westbrook was doing? He could've been tying his shoe. He could've been taking a swig of Gatorade. Or he could've been shaking hands with the Mavs.
The truth is, we really don't know, and yet there are folks who jumped to the conclusion that he was storming off the court and refusing to congratulate the Mavs.
The NBA isn't like the NHL anyway. Teams don't line up and shake hands after a playoff series clincher.
Besides, I don't know a lot of players who enjoy being on the court while the other team celebrates. Having the other guy's confetti fall on your shoulders is no fun.
Only adding to this latest Westbrook madness is talk about him refusing to go to the postgame interview room. It was not only on some blogs but also mentioned by analyst Hubie Brown during an interview on ESPN's “Mike & Mike in the Morning.”
I asked a couple of Thunder staffers Thursday afternoon about this, and both of them said it wasn't true. There was no adamant denial by Westbrook.
He spoke to the media in the locker room after the game like he usually does, and our man John Rohde reported that even though Westbrook was short with his answers, he was unexpectedly nice at the end.
“Thank you, guys,” he said, something I never remember hearing him say at the end of an interview.
So, Westbrook is once again a lightning rod.
The reason: a couple things that might not be true and one thing that isn't.
What in the world is behind all of this criticism? He has never been on a police blotter. He has never done anything to deserve the villain tag.
Yet, he is scrutinized as much as any player in the NBA.
Maybe it's because he doesn't fit the point guard stereotype. Maybe it's because he doesn't hide that chip on his shoulder, the result of one coach after another telling him that he couldn't play point guard. Maybe it's because he is still a work in progress in a world that wants instant gratification.
I don't know the answer, but I do know that this most recent tomfoolery proves that the criticism of Westbrook has gotten ridiculous.
“He handles it so well,” said Thunder guard James Harden, who's been friends with Westbrook since middle school in Los Angeles. “I'd be frustrated, but he handles it so well.”
Perhaps some of this absurdity will end now that the Thunder's season is over. Westbrook will lay low. Critics will look elsewhere.
This is Russell Westbrook we're talking about, after all.