Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook's tantrum goes national, sparks negative reaction

Television analysts say team chemistry is fragile, might keep Thunder from contending for championship
By John Rohde Published: February 1, 2013

A nationwide buzz lingered Friday from Russell Westbrook's meltdown during the Thunder's 106-89 victory Thursday night against the Memphis Grizzlies at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Westbrook was benched in the third quarter and became so upset he headed toward the locker room tunnel to calm himself. Westbrook quickly returned, started the fourth quarter and completed an otherwise positive performance that resulted in 21 points (9 for 17 from the field), nine rebounds and six assists.

Westbrook's tantrum transpired on national television and TNT initially reported erroneously Westbrook had become angry at teammate Kevin Durant. The incident actually began when Westbrook turned the ball over on an offensive five-second violation, which he blamed on teammate Thabo Sefolosha for drawing a defender closer to Westbrook.

Afterward, OKC coach Scott Brooks said the incident was behind his team, which already was looking ahead to Saturday's 6:30 p.m. road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.

Friday morning was business as usual for the Thunder, who had an optional, hour-long recovery session before departing on an afternoon charter flight to a wind chill of minus-7 degrees in Cleveland.

Because it was not a formal practice session, Brooks and his players were not made available for media.

OKC will return home immediately after playing the Cavs and will begin preparation for next week's three-game homestand against Dallas on Monday, Golden State on Wednesday and Phoenix on Friday.

Here are some reactions from national media on the Westbrook incident:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith: “The (team) chemistry is fragile. I hate to walk around the locker room on eggshells when a guy does something like this. Now you can't act natural around this guy for a couple days, and that really messes your team's morale up.”

TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal: “Westbrook is one of the leaders of the team. In order to be a great leader, you have to be a great listener. He messed up. … He's wrong. He knows he's wrong. You move on.”

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