When David Stern announced the name, "James Harden,” groans ricocheted around The Oklahoman newsroom. Same with the Thunder draft party at Riverwind Casino, various Internet chats and probably all over Boomtown.
But rest assured, somewhere in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook smiled wider than the Santa Monica Freeway. All that pillow talk from general manager Sam Presti? All those assurances from the Thunder that yes indeed, Westbrook is the Thunder’s point guard? Not hollow words. Ricky Rubio, the dashing Spaniard, the Ringo Starr lookalike, will take his no-look passes and Latin flair elsewhere. Westbrook is the Thunder quarterback of the present and the future. Which is perfectly fine. Westbrook was one heck of a rookie point guard, and he’s going to get not only better, but much better. "Our feelings on Russell have been consistent,” Presti said. "Russell’s a competitive, tenacious, young, athletic player who we feel great about. We couldn’t be more thrilled with what he’s doing.” Rubio would have been a fun addition to the Ford Center, with passes getting dunked or flying into the seats. One of the beauties of Westbrook is his versatility; he could slide over and perform off the ball. But the selection of Harden places Westbrook solo at point guard and smooths over a potentially dicey situation. When ESPN The Magazine asked Westbrook about the Thunder possibly drafting Rubio, Westbrook responded, "You trippin’.” By Thursday afternoon, on Jim Rome’s ESPN television show, Westbrook said: "I don’t recall saying that. I don’t remember saying that at all.” Maybe someone got to Westbrook and told him to shape up. Or maybe someone got to Westbrook and told him never fear, Rubio wasn’t coming to OKC. Either way, let’s not be too hard on Westbrook. NBA Podcast: The latest on the Thunder's draft pick