With the offensive explosion from Kevin Durant and the stream of victories from his team, some have opined that, upon return, Russell Westbrook will need to adjust his game around the Thunder's new Durant-heavy style of play.
That return could come as early as Thursday. But an adjustment to Westbrook's game will likely never follow.
That's just not how he operates.
“Let him be him,” Durant said of his All-Star point guard. “He's a dog, and you have to let him off the leash. You can't put a leash on that guy.”
Pencil in Westbrook for his 33 minutes per game, his 18 shots, his 20-plus points, his attacking, ball-control style that requires plenty of touches, but traditionally leads to positive results.
“We don't want him to come in there and play too passive because of how we're playing,” Durant said. “We just want him to come in and be him, and we're looking forward to having him back.”
But since an adjustment won't come from Westbrook, it'll have to come from his surrounding teammates.
And some of that change will be positive. Reggie Jackson will slide back into his more comfortable reserve role, leading a second-unit that is playing well, but could certainly use an extra playmaker.
And Serge Ibaka will again have an extra probing attacker to free him up for wide-open (nearly automatic) pick and pop jumpers. He has developed great offensive chemistry with Westbrook the past few seasons.
“We're just going to mold ourselves around him,” Durant said. “We're not trying to have him mold into the team.”
But the change won't all be positive. It'll come with some sacrifice.
Westbrook controls the ball for an average of 6.6 minutes per game, according to NBA.com/stats. That's easily the highest number on the Thunder and the 11th highest in the league.
That means less Jeremy Lamb shots, less Derek Fisher minutes, less Perry Jones appearances, less of a need for guys who have meant so much over the past couple months.
But such is the life on a stacked NBA roster.
“Good teams have to make sacrifices, and we've done it for a lot of years,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It's just going to be another opportunity to embrace adjustments and sacrifice for one another.”
The most negative effect will likely be the reduction of Durant's usage. His shots will go down. His historic numbers will cool off.
And anything advocating less Durant, on the surface, would appear to be a bad idea.
But come playoff time that extra rest should help. A heavy offensive burden will be eased.
And the Thunder, in the long run, will be a better team. OKC is 22-8 without Westbrook this season and 21-4 with him.
Both fantastic records, but one better than the other.
“Whenever he's ready, we're ready,” Brooks said.
Even if it comes with some sacrifices.