Memphis coach Dave Joerger: “I have no idea why he takes the flak that he takes. This man can play. He’s one of the most talented people in the league. It’s unfathomable.”
Clipper coach Doc Rivers: “Westbrook gets criticized a lot, but I don’t know why. The dude plays hard. He’s tough.”
Oh, Rivers knows why, and so does everyone else. Westbrook shoots a lot. Doesn’t always make point guard decisions straight out of the Hoosiers Handbook. Sometimes can get out of control.
Coaching Westbrook isn’t easy, as Scotty Brooks can attest. But neither was coaching Brett Favre. You think Mike Holmgren preferred Matt Hasselbeck?
Besides, hard to coach isn’t uncoachable. Barkley says Westbrook hasn’t changed in three years? Heck, he’s changed in the last four games.
After five games of the Memphis series, the Thunder offense was stuck on Mud Island. Too many 3-pointers. Not enough movement. A season on the brink.
Foreman Scotty gets credit for inserting Caron Butler into the starting lineup. Good move. Brooks, or someone, also reached Russ. Better move.
In the four games since then, Westbrook has been stellar. Averaging 28.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists. Shooting 56.1 percent. Made seven of 13 3-pointers. And best of all, Westbrook’s fury doesn’t subside, even when he’s playing under control.
Westbrook got lost on defense in Game 1 against the Clippers, but he was a phenomenal defensively in Game 2. And while the Clips’ Chris Paul remains the NBA’s premier point guard, Westbrook isn’t far behind. And think of it this way. Even if Paul plays good defense on Westbrook, sometimes that isn’t enough. CP3 can’t physically match up with Westbrook. I promise you, in this series, the Clippers are more clueless about how to stop Westbrook than they are about how to stop Durant.
Brooks doesn’t always know what he’s going to get from Westbrook. Except this: “I know I’m going to get a competitive Russ. He’s gonna give you everything he has. He’s not gonna make every shot, but he’s gonna compete.
“After the game, you’re gonna know you played against Russell, and I respect that in a big way, because I think that’s the way the game’s supposed to be played, with everything you have.”
Brooks even stepped out on faith, where he rarely trods, and admitted that Westbrook’s shot selection has been shaky at times. Admitted he’s not happy with 31 shots from his point guard, which Westbrook attempted in Memphis Game 5.
But Westbrook walks the streets of Dodge serious, every game. He’s a great player. An elite player. Westbrook is no sidekick. No complementary figure. And any talk otherwise is just crazy.