Give Russell Westbrook a break
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook took 30 shots and scored 30 points in Monday's loss at Denver. What should Scott Brooks change Wednesday? Absolutely nothing, writes columnist Berry Tramel.
Russell Westbrook staged his own 30 for 30 docudrama Monday night. Thirty points on 30 shots.
Think of the marketing possibilities had the 30 for 30 game been aired on ESPN. Alas, TNT had Game 4 of the Thunder-Nugget series, which allowed Chris Webber and Charles Barkley to lambaste Westbrook, reminding him that he's Robin to Kevin Durant's Batman.
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They were partially right. Thirty shots is way too many for anyone this side of Wilt Chamberlain or maybe Durant, and nobody is pretending otherwise.
“Did he take too many shots? Absolutely,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks.
So here's what Brooks should do Wednesday for Game 5.
Nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing except to remind his staff that anyone who tries to put a bridle on Westbrook is fired on the spot.
Westbrook is 22 years old. He's still learning on the job. Westbrook is nowhere near where he was, but he's nowhere near where he will be.
“He's going to get better,” Brooks said. “You're not seeing Russell at this level for the rest of his career.”
Derrick Rose is 39 days older than Westbrook and the apparent NBA MVP. Rose has his dubious moments, too, like shooting 5-of-29 from 3-point range in the first four games of the Chicago-Indiana playoff series.
Here are Rose's numbers through four games: 28.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 35.2 percent shooting.
Here are Westbrook's numbers through four games: 26.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 43 percent shooting.
Each of the last four seasons, Westbrook has made a remarkable leap. From UCLA benchwarmer to solid collegian to intriguing NBA rookie to quality point guard to All-Star.
Some say Westbrook plays with a chip on his shoulder. No kidding. Whatever Westbrook is doing, keep it up.
And he's not the Boy Wonder. He's not Rocky Bleier to Durant's Franco Harris. He's John Stallworth to Durant's Lynn Swann.
I know people haven't come to grips with it, but the Thunder has two Batmans.
“He's a star, too,” Durant said Tuesday, defending his partner. “He's shown he can win games for you. You can't be mad at him because he missed a few.”
Westbrook has been vilified for taking — and missing — three 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds, all of which would have wiped out a Denver lead.
But only the middle 3-pointer was a bad shot.
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