Russell Westbrook’s been one of the most electric players in the NBA. No one else plays with so much energy on a nightly basis and delivers ferocious dunks every chance he gets. But, Westbrook’s also been one of the most polarizing players in the NBA.
He is a horrible three-point shooter, yet he was adamant in shooting them when it seemed there were better options on the court. While in OKC, their entire offense revolved around Westbrook, for better or worse. That was the price of getting him to sign a supermax extension and staying in Oklahoma City – only to get traded a year into the supermax. Ja Morant believes that overall, Westbrook’s been undervalued and underappreciated.
“I still feel like he’s highly disrespected. People take his play for granted. I mean, he averaged a triple-double for the last three or four years, and I’m pretty sure they see what he’s doing this year, but it’s still the same thing.”Ja Morant, via ESPN
Morant may have a point, but there are a few things that need to be pointed out. As impressive as Westbrook’s triple-doubles might have been, it’s undeniable they were a product of stat hunting. Steven Adams had an embargo on jumping after free throws. A lot of times, you’d see Russ chasing his assists and getting mad because someone missed a shot – not exactly textbook teammate behavior.
The other thing is his attitude during games and interviews. Let’s just say Westbrook isn’t a charmer and likes to talk a lot of trash. Like most players from the OKC system (Durant, Harden, Westbrook), he is quite sensitive about what is said or written about him and doesn’t take it on the chin. We’ve seen plenty of one-word answers from Russ. That doesn’t help with getting fans that are not necessarily fans of the team you play for. Westbrook just doesn’t care.
“I don’t really care what nobody else thinks about my game. I appreciate guys like [Morant] and other guys, but as long as I’m OK and satisfied with what I bring to the table, I’m going to keep busting everybody’s ass.”Russell Westbrook, via ESPN
He made my point for me. This is where I have more respect for Westbrook than Durant, for instance. He genuinely does not care. Westbrook’s been playing the best basketball of his life, the small ball the Rockets are playing since Capela was traded brought out the best in him. He has averaged 34.0 points on 56.9% shooting and given no indication this was just a fluke.
Will this get him more fans? Not a lot. Does Russell Westbrook care? Not particularly. I’m sure he’d trade his 14.9 million followers on Instagram for a return to the Finals in a heartbeat. By the way, 14.9 million doesn’t scream “needs more fans.”