Russell Westbrook has taken it too far. I understand the league cuts some slack when a star player is involved. According to all reporting and comments made by people covering the league, no players have ever received the protection and pampering as Westbrook did in Oklahoma City.
It goes back to the Durant – Westbrook tandem of sensitive, thin-skinned leaders that set the tone. Then KD left, and it was “keep Westbrook at all cost” mode in OKC. He hunted stats, sacrificed team success for the MVP and was never pressured by the organization to change in any way.
Well, it’s time for the “all cost” part. It is my belief it has already had an effect on the court with Westbrook, shooting a spectacular 28.8% from three, but he is still taking 5.6 of those per game. Under two minutes to go in an important game, he throws an airball, and nobody says a thing.
When asked about any of his objective deficiencies in the game, a lot of times Westbrook will answer with a question in the vain of “have I ever changed?”, as if change is something terrible. He gets offended when people imply there is room for improvement by asking if he intends to change something. Very mature.
No one knows this better than Barry Tramel, a writer for the “The Oklahoman.” He was the reporter who asked Steven Adams about the team playing much worse when Westbrook sits (an empirical fact by the way), and then Westbrook interrupted the answer. It continued after that and goes on even today.
Tramel wrote a piece in which he pointed out the heart of the issue (via The Oklahoman):
That’s the seed of Westbrook’s frustration with me in particular and the media in general. Control. He is frustrated that the media is out of his control. That was manifested during the 2017 playoffs, when he intercepted my question to Steven Adams about why the Thunder collapsed so much during the minutes when Westbrook sat. Westbrook wouldn’t allow Adams to answer; he tried to commandeer the press conference and basically succeeded, despite my repeated attempts to point out that I wasn’t asking Westbrook, I was asking Adams.
Yet Westbrook for a decade has shown disdain for even the media he considers friendly. Westbrook occasionally can be cooperative and engaged during on-court, on-air interviews. But in the locker room, the internal Thunder media gets no better answers to questions than does the external Thunder media. The internal Thunder media gets treated the same in interview gatherings as the external Thunder media — no personal interaction, no eye contact, no calling anyone by name.
The NBA commissioner has a wide range of powers to fine players for behavior detrimental to the league. The only skepticism Silver causes in his very successful tenure is the fact he is very soft on players. These are fact-based legitimate basketball questions that Westbrook should answer. Talking to the media is a contractual obligation and a part of the job description.
If OKC is OK with handing over the reins of the organization to him and having a player with such rude, unprofessional, spoiled behavior set the culture, that’s their call. Respectfully speaking to the media, looking a person in the eye and actually answering a question is a league issue.