Peter Pan was back in business Thursday night. You know. Russell Westbrook. The mischievous boy who can fly and who never grows up.
Westbrook barked at the genteel Thabo Sefolosha, took a shot so wild Scotty Brooks was forced to substitute, blew his stack while being counseled by Mo Cheeks, knocked over a chair and stormed off the court to the comfort of a Chesapeake Arena tunnel.
At the time, Westbrook was playing an excellent game and the Thunder led Memphis by 20 points.
The Thunder produced a 106-89 rout of the Grizzlies that was overshadowed by Peter Pan.
And maybe the basketball world will be better off if we accept what Westbrook is. Part hot hand, part hothead. Uncorrallable, not just by NBA opponents, but by Thunder brass.
“There's no question he was frustrated with himself,” Brooks said. “Russell's an emotional guy … not trying to downplay that. He has to be able to control his frustration. But that's part of it.”
Exactly. Westbrook's wild emotions are part of it. Maybe those wild emotions help make him who he is. Which is a ballplayer so good, he can wipe out the NBA's best of the West the way Peter Pan took care of Captain Hook.
Serenity now? We're past that as advice for Westbrook. That's advice for his team, which has to deal with the fallout of a soap opera every month or so.
Some suggested that the Thunder bench seemed tired of Westbrook's act after he cooled off in the tunnel for a minute or so. I don't know. I couldn't see from my vantage point. But in the locker room, the Boomers were back in protection mode.
Brooks and his boys talked of how basketball is an emotional game, and this is an emotional team, and they wouldn't have it any other way. Except who else turns the tunnel into a decompression chamber? Who marches off the bench during the game, except to nurse an ankle sprain or hit the can?
Steady Nick Collison even tried to sell us on Westbrook's leadership and said, “Russell in particular has grown up a lot.”
I'll buy Westbrook's leadership skills as far as work ethic and effort, but otherwise, let's be serious.
However, Westbrook's ballplaying is not lacking. Heck, when Brooks reinserted Westbrook to start the fourth quarter, after he was benched for the final 7:54 of the third quarter, the Peter Pan point guard acted like nothing had happened. He played solid, and the Thunder spurted away again to blow open the game.
That's the crazy thing. Westbrook can produce some clunkers that would make the best of us head for the hallway. But when pulled Thursday night, the Thunder led 65-44, and Westbrook had 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, six rebounds and four assists.
Kevin Durant defended Westbrook but also said the squad “talked it out” in the locker room and didn't let it fester. That's good.
“Russell is such an emotional player,” Durant said. “I knew he'd be back. That's how he is. We want everybody to be themselves.”
That's good. I like that. That's the best advice the Thunder can receive.
Quit trying to change Russell Westbrook. Don't even defend him. Just accept him for who he is. The boy who can fly and never grows up.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.