By Stefan Anderson
A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player, and I’m the first to have your back through it all. Just stay the person you are. Everybody loves you here. I love you.” MVP Kevin Durant uttered those words about his running mate Russell Westbrook after receiving the honor of becoming the league’s superior award. But the speculations about Westbrook have been love or hate, or maybe hate to love from the majority of sports fans. I believe that Russ takes the blame for things that he has no fault taking blame for.
When Kevin Durant went on his miraculous tear this season, due to a Westbrook injury many questioned the necessity of keeping the tandem together. In the prior it was shown that Westbrook was vital to Oklahoma City’s success. After a second round exit by the Memphis Grizzlies, it proved that Russell Westbrook is what they needed after defenses set their plan against taking out Durant. A formula that worked previously, did not work this year when Memphis faced OKC in the first round that featured Westbrook.
The Thunder posted a 24-9 record while Westbrook, The team seen the emergence of many roles players including Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Serge Ibaka to help fill void of the Thunder’s secondary superstar. Although they played well without him they are fairly better offensively and defensively with Westbrook. With Westbrook the Thunder score nearly 5 more points and hold teams to almost 4 less points a game.
The majority of Westbrook’s criticism comes from his shot intake and erratic play but you cannot blame him for his needed offense. Although Ibaka has shown improvement over the years, his offense is still inconsistent along with Perkins and Sefolosha, lacking that 3rd scorer the Thunder lost when they traded James Harden. With 2 guys that start and cannot scratch close to 10 points a game, his shot selection is explained well.
What I can argue with is why Westbrook decides to make himself a better playmaker at times. His playoffs stats are a small sample size but show how he can improve his game slightly. In games that his team has lost this postseason, he averages more points less assists and rebounds (29 ppg, 8 rpg and 7 apg) in opposite to when his teams wins (24 ppg, 9 rpg, 9apg). But Russell Westbrook competitive spirit is second to none, which is why he is so valued. If Kevin Durant goes cold as he did in Game 5 (6-22 from the field), you need a Russell Westbrook to win games as he showed in tonight game. Westbrook went off for 38 points, including the clutch steal over Chris Paul and then sinking the 3 game winning free throws.
“An emotional guy who would run through a wall for me. There are days when I want to just tackle you and tell you to snap out of it sometimes. I know there’s days you want to do the same with me. I love you man. Durant echoed those words after winning his first MVP award but he meant tonight, as Westbrook proved that he should never be the scapegoat for the losses but credited for all his efforts.