LOS ANGELES — Still crazy, a bunch of people like to keep saying about Russell Westbrook, after all these years.
But two can play the Paul Simon game. Still talking crazy, I like to say, after all these years? Still talking crazy about Russell Westbrook?
Westbrook hasn’t changed in three years, Charles Barkley said on TNT’s post-game show Wednesday night, after an historic performance, Westbrook’s third triple double of these playoffs.
The Westbrook “experiment” is “getting close to being over,” Hall of Famer Reggie Miller said on the Dan Patrick Show this week, and that’s coming from one of Westbrook’s UCLA pals.
Aren’t we past this? Aren’t we past the idea that Westbrook isn’t an NBA point guard? Past the idea that Westbrook isn’t an elite point guard? Past the idea that somehow Westbrook and Kevin Durant aren’t two great tastes that go great together?
The Thunder heads to LA for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, and the Clippers are wondering what to do about Westbrook just as much as they’re wondering what to do about Durant.
Westbrook struck the Clippers for 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 2, making 13 of 22 shots.
Durant countered with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, making nine of 19 shots. One small assist shy of teammates producing triple doubles, in a playoff showdown.
As is, it’s the first time in NBA history – more than 56,000 games – that teammates have both crossed the threshold of 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. This isn’t Batman and Robin. This is Batman and Batman.
Westbrook is no Festus Haggan or Barney Fife. Westbrook is no deputy. He’s Wyatt Earp himself, walking the streets of Dodge with Marshal Dillon.
And the people who need to know – the Thunder brass, Durant, Westbrook himself – do know.
“A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player, and I’m the first to have your back, man, through it all,” Durant told Westbrook during the now-famous MVP ceremony Tuesday. “Just stay the person you are. Everybody loves you here. I love you. I thank you so much, man.”
Durant was just getting started. All those times critics say they’d be better apart? All those times Durant’s been told he needs a Robin, not a peer? All those times pundits wonder how Westbrook could take shots from Durant? Durant had an answer.
“You make me better,” he told Westbrook. “Your work ethic, I always want to compete with you. I always want to pull up in the parking lot of the arena, or the practice facility, and if you beat me there I was always upset. I always wanted to outwork you. You set the bar. You set the tone. Thank you so much, man. Thank you. You have a big piece of this. You’re an MVP-caliber player. It’s a blessing to play with you, man.”
That’s now flowery prose on an emotional day. Kenny Smith – the guy on the TNT set who actually follows the league – predicted Tuesday night that Westbrook will one day win an MVP himself. And the greatest praise, the most active members of the Westbrook Fan Club, comes from the guys charged with trying to stop him.