Berry Tramel

NewsOK | BLOGS

Oklahoma City Thunder: Why bring Russell Westbrook back in overtime?

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 26, 2014 at 10:05 am •  Published: March 26, 2014

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) talks with referee Ken Mauer (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Dallas won, 109-86. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) talks with referee Ken Mauer (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Dallas won, 109-86. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Russell Westbrook is on a minutes restriction. Either 30 or 32, depending on which clues Scotty Brooks lets slip. It was 30 last Friday, 32 on Tuesday. Maybe it’s growing or maybe it’s Foreman Scotty just jacking with us.

But whatever, the minutes restriction was put to the test Tuesday night in Dallas. Westbrook’s jumpshot rimmed in and out in the final seconds of regulation Tuesday night in Dallas, and the Thunder and the Mavericks went to overtime. Going into overtime, Westbrook had played 30:51.

And to start overtime, Westbrook was on the bench. I can respect that. You have a time limit set, fine. Westbrook’s health is paramount. If the minutes restrictions, and the no back-to-backs policy, was formulated by strong and clear and rational thinking — and I assume it was, since that’s the way the Thunder does most everything — then absolutely you stick with it.

Sure, it stinks to go into overtime without Westbrook. But some things are more important than one game in Dallas in March. As the Spurs have shown when it comes to playing time, have a plan and stay resolved. Live with the results, Know your decisions were made based on what’s best for the entire organization. over the long haul.

And yet, with 2:03 left in overtime, and the Thunder trailing 120-113, in came Westbrook. He played the final 2:03 of the game, and at the final buzzer the Thunder trailed 128-119 and Westbrook’s playing time had risen to 32:54.

Huh? Why play Westbrook over his restrictions? And why put him in when the game was in serious jeopardy? I know, the Thunder is capable of all kinds of comebacks. The Boomers beat Toronto on Friday night despite trailing by eight with 48 seconds left in the second overtime. The Thunder also won that game without Westbrook, who left the game in the third quarter with a knee sprain.

If you’re going to play Westbrook over his allotted time — and you shouldn’t play Westbrook over his allotted time — then why wait until the game is virtually over? Start him in the overtime. Or get him in when it’s 113-111 Dallas a minute into overtime. Or 116-111 Dallas 90 seconds into overtime.

Why bust the time limit when it’s a seven-point game with two minutes left? Why play Westbrook when another huge comeback is needed?

I didn’t understand. If the minutes restriction is flexible, then use Westbrook’s extra time to either gain an overtime edge or to keep it close when the verdict starts slipping away. Don’t use it when the game is already slipped.

To me, this game showed that once the playoffs start, the minutes restriction will be gone from Westbrook. He’s never been one of those guys who plays 45 minutes a game. Brooks always sits Westbrook more than Durant is rested. Westbrook usually plays in the 38-minute range. I can see that returning for the playoffs. Especially after this Dallas game, when the minutes restrictions were shown to be a suggestion, not a law.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
+ show more


Trending Now


AROUND THE WEB

  1. 1
    Angels won't cap former OU pitcher Garrett Richards' innings
  2. 2
    McDonald's Allegedly Fires Mom Whose Daughter Played Outside While She Worked
  3. 3
    Verizon: We track you, you get free stuff
  4. 4
    Is this Apple's new iWatch?
  5. 5
    Survey: Users unhappy with Facebook
+ show more