A byproduct of the criticism aimed at Russell Westbrook throughout the Thunder’s run to the Western Conference Finals was outlandish trade speculation surrounding the third-year point guard. Following his roller-coaster postseason, Westbrook managed to become the centerpiece in potential deals tossed around by fans and media types.
Of course, the speculation made absolutely no sense. The Thunder is not trading Russell Westbrook. Read that sentence 100 more times so it sinks in. Westbrook is a top five point guard, an All-Star and a Second-Team All-NBA selection. He’s quickly entering into the realm of NBA stars that simply don’t return equal value if they’re dealt. There are still some exceptions in Westbrook’s case, but you get the point. He’s still only 22, and he has accepted his role with the franchise. His potential for growth is too great. His character and commitment has helped establish incredible chemistry. And the Thunder has invested too much time and energy into developing Westbrook to up and turn back now.
But no one seems to consider all of those facts. Some see one bad game by Westbrook and say he needs to be shipped out. Earlier this week, a beat writer who covers a team drafting in the high lottery contacted me just to check to see if the Thunder would consider trading Westbrook. The writer knew it was a long shot, but the team’s fan base was running with Westbrook rumors so much that the writer had no choice but to begin the process of due diligence.
The most popular Westbrook trade scenario that almost took on a life of its own, though, was Westbrook to New Orleans for Chris Paul — another “potential” swap that shouldn’t really need validation. But, once again, the speculation has grown so rampant that Hornets general manager Dell Demps had to be asked about the rumor. No surprise that he shot it down.
“Sam Presti and I, our offices used to be right next to each other, so we still text each other all the time, and I can assure you that has not been a conversation we’ve had,” Demps said, cracking a smile as he spoke to reporters.
Someday, the basketball world (which includes some right here in OKC) will realize how special Westbrook is. Is he a true point guard? No. Does he need to be? Heck no. He is what he is: an out-of-this-world guard who averaged 24 points, five rebounds and six assists in the playoffs.
And he’s not going anywhere.