NBA Finals: How Thunder-Heat became another referendum on Russell Westbrook

A small segment of people can't get over how Westbrook is not a “traditional” point guard. They can't look past how he looks for his own shot nearly as much as he does the reigning three-time scoring champ in Kevin Durant.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 16, 2012

MIAMI — On the biggest stage of his basketball life, Russell Westbrook remains as defiant as ever.

Your opinions of him mean nothing. Your ideas on how he should conduct himself as the point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder don't matter, either.

“I'm not making no adjustments,” Westbrook stridently said Saturday.

He is who he is, for better or worse, whether you like it or not, and that's just how it is.

The NBA Finals won't change the Oklahoma City Thunder star.

And the truth is, it shouldn't.

The Thunder wouldn't be here without Russell Westbrook. More and more people are starting to recognize that.

But a small segment can't get over how Westbrook is not a “traditional” point guard. They can't look past how he looks for his own shot nearly as much as he does the reigning three-time scoring champ in Kevin Durant.

“That's what we've dealt with all season,” said Kendrick Perkins. “Russ is an attack-first point guard with a scorer's mentality. We got this far by him doing what he do.”

Game 2 was no different.

Only when the Thunder dropped a 100-96 decision to Miami inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, did it become a problem. It served as the same old story line that we've seen and heard throughout much of Westbrook's four seasons.

The easy narrative was Westbrook cost the Thunder the game.

By now, though, those who are still trumpeting that theme seem to be stuck in the simplistic world of sensationalism. It's sad but true.

“It kind of comes with it,” Perkins said. “They get a lot of the praise when we win, so the superstars are going to take a lot of the heat when we lose. It's not fair, but that's just what it is.”

Anyone with a basketball brain who watched the Thunder's Game 2 loss didn't see Westbrook taking ill-advised shots. They saw Westbrook trying to make plays for his team. Some seemed forced, for sure, especially early when Westbrook started 0-for-6. But the bulk of those stemmed from Kevin Durant's inability to shake free from LeBron James. In those moments, Westbrook had no choice but to take the shots.

Who else was going to?

“A lot of times, when we have bad possessions, he ends up having to take shots at the end (of the shot clock),” said Nick Collison. “He's trying to do what's best for the team.”

But when Westbrook headed into halftime 2-for-10 from the field, he got ripped to shreds for turning in “the worst performance by a point guard in NBA Finals history,” as Hall of Famer and Lakers legend Magic Johnson said during the ABC halftime show.

“We don't pay attention to that,” said Collison. “We don't pay attention to criticism. But what we do see when we watch bad possessions is how do we can get a better possession. A lot of times the cuts aren't hard enough, the screens aren't good enough. So that's a big key for us is to try to avoid those situations where him or anybody else have to take bad shots.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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