Russell Westbrook’s sideline spat with Kevin Durant late in the second quarter in last night’s game against the Grizzlies does not bother me. I actually love seeing two of the best players in the game jaw at each other. It reveals their intensity. Remember, this is game three and their playing like it’s June! I love it.
This was the perfect kind of “altercation.” A case where both were right. During the second quarter, Westbrook drove baseline finding a wide open Thabo Sefolosha for three in the corner. Thabo passed it up. Westbrook was not pleased. If you were watching live, you could clearly see Westbrook yell at Thabo, “Shoot the (expletive) ball!” Thabo signaled to Westbrook to relax and that it was his bad. He should have shot it. And he was right. Thabo needs to take that shot or teams will simply sag off of him and clog the painted area. But Westbrook was still fuming. During a timeout Durant, as clear as day, could be seen screaming back at Westbrook, defending Thabo and seemingly telling Russ to chill. Westbrook wanted no part of it. The altercation was real and it was intense. And after the timeout it was over. Durant patted Westbrook on his head as they returned to the court.
After the game, Brooks addressed the sideline issue (via The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry): “When you have an intense game, you’re going to have arguments. I have no problem with it. I think it’s healthy. I think you learn from it and you get better with it. That’s just part of an NBA game. We have it and other teams have it. Good teams, bad teams and average teams. I have no issues with how our guys compete. At times they get frustrated. But it’s always about the team.”
I agree. These things happen. Durant also squashed any thoughts of a rift after the game stating he was 110% behind Westbrook.
But there was still some collateral damage during the game. The altercation clearly wasn’t over for Westbrook and his play reflected it. R.W went 0 for 13 on the night. More glaring: seven of his 13 shots were from 16 feet and out. He finished the game with four points, six assists, and four turnovers. This is not his game. Westbrook is a walking triple-double. When he drives to the basket and makes plays for himself AND his teammates, he’s one of the best in the game. And that’s exactly what he did late in the second quarter on the Sefolosha play. He should have been frustrated. Yet, his fierceness and relentlessness sometimes spills over and clouds his better judgement.
This spat may get overblown today, but the relationship between Durant and Westbrook deserves to be monitored as we move forward. There were some subtle signs last year of a rift between Durant and Westbrook late in the post-season. Westbrook was hit hard in the media for his uneven temper and all-around play as a decision-maker in the Dallas series.
The dynamic is fascinating to me. Point guards are natural leaders of a team. Westbrook’s talent warrants that leadership. But as we all know, this is Kevin Durant’s team. My opinion: The Thunder are going to come out firing against Dallas tonight and forget last night even happened. These two guys are too professional and Scott Brooks is too good of a coach to let any of this go too far.
Oh yea, the final score: Thunder 98, Grizzlies 95.
Some other notes about last night…
David West hit a fall away 20 footer to secure a victory for the Pacers last night against the Raptors. Frank Vogel and Larry Bird desperately wanted West in the off-season for his floor leadership and toughness around the paint which perfectly compliments Roy Hibbert’s game. West is averaging 12 and 9 and showing no ill-effects from off-season knee surgery to repair a torn-ACL.
The Heat are slowly exorcising last year’s demons. First, they took down the Mavs in a blowout win on Christmas day. Next, they took care of their rival the Celtics. Last night, they found a way to win in the final seconds thanks to a tear-drop from Dwyane Wade with 2.9 seconds left. My favorite stat: 17 of James’ 23 shots were within 14 feet. Do you hear me Russell Westbrook!?
The Celtics looked lifeless in a blowout road loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul who? The Celtics were still playing without Paul Pierce who missed his third straight game with a bruised heel. The Hornets were playing without Eric Gordon, who sat out the game with a bruised knee. They did get a great all-around floor game from Jarrett Jack. Jack finished the game with 21 pts., 4 rbs., 9 asts. Jack was suspended for the first game of the season for his offseason DUI charge.