Although this blog is pretty current-Bruin-centric, it must be noted whenever one of the members of our incredibly-extended family achieves something awesome.
Today, UCLA Bruin Russell Westbrook did that. Dude’s getting paid:
The max contract, you guys. That’s a hell of an accomplishment. And it’s well-deserved, too: Westbrook has established himself as an elite point guard in a league chock full of awesome guard play. Sure, he’s had his bumps, but he’s transitioning from being an off-guard in Westwood to being the on-ball guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Of course, there are some opponents. Really, really stupid opponents. Let’s take care of them, after the jump.
Of course Skip Bayless opposes — why not?
We’re sure Skip is only saying this to rock the boat and bask in whatever attention he’s going to get for saying this. But to be fair, let’s pay some attention to it.
Earlier this year, Westbrook and fellow OKC superstar Kevin Durant were caught in a spat shortly after Russell Westbrook penetrated, kicked out too a wide-open Thabo Sefolosha and got ticked when Sefolosha refused to take the open three. When Durant attempted to calm down Westbrook (who was deservedly still heated heading to the bench), Russell took exception and got into a shouting match with Durant. This wasn’t caught on tape, but it happened (I think) and everyone in the NBA blogosphere caught their panties in a bunch. Here’s the video of the play that reportedly pitted the two against one another:
Obviously, Thabo should’ve shot the damn ball, but I digress.
The spat between Durant and Westbrook is typical of growing pains between two superstars in their early-20s. While Durant is trying to adjust to playing off the ball, Westbrook is trying to adjust to having an elite scorer waiting on the wing. Westbrook’s role in OKC isn’t one that requires him to be submissive, either — rather, his job is to penetrate the paint and create open looks. Over time, his vision will get better. But to say they’ll clash and that the duo will never work, especially since they’re both up-and-coming megastars in this league? Bull. The two will make for one of the most prolific basketball duos for years to come. (Unless, you know, OKC wants to trade Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, then I think everyone would be OK with that.)
And then there are the jokers who like to use advanced statistics:
Actually, Westbrook has a higher PER than Kyrie Irving and that’s not taking into consideration Westbrook plays on a championship-contending team that is waist-deep in talent, ranging from ball-handlers James Harden and Kevin Durant to inside monsters like Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Plus, Westbrook is a much better defender. Our friend John Krolik also doesn’t seem to take into account Westbrook’s body of work, in which Westbrook has been an absolute game-breaker since entering the league in 2008. Kyrie Irving is a rookie, and rookies are susceptible to sophomore (and junior, and senior, and supersenior …) slumps. Westbrook is past that already.
To be objective, Westbrook has struggled with playing like a pure point guard. When your abilities allow you to get into the paint without so much as breaking a sweat, of course you’re going to want to look to score. But Westbrook is only 23 and point guards generally enter get exponentially better as they get closer to their 30s. Eventually, he’ll come to.
Either way, good on ya, Russell. Rep Bruin-nation well, OK?