After winning back-to-back games on the backs of the Oklahoma City superstars, Westbrook — at this moment — couldn’t look anymore like Westbrook. What I mean by this is, well, he’s a glut of adjectives and predictable isn’t one of them.
While the motor of Russell Westbrook is always turned on, he’s simply unpredictable. In Game Four against San Antonio, Westbrook looked as if he was totally comfortable controlling the game as a facilitator and watching his co-star, Kevin Durant, run the show for 41 points against the best defender in basketball. However, as unpredictable as Westbrook is it seemed that — despite a playoff career high — every time that Durant was due for a heat check, Westbrook would take it for him instead.
Now, rewind to Game Five. Russell Westbrook was a maniac who was all over the place. It’s safe to say his fingerprints were everywhere after finishing with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. One moment he is banging in three pointers, and the next he is attacking triple teams in transition and scoring with ease.
I’ve never seen somebody play a sport at the speed that Westbrook plays basketball at. He looks like a missile every time he barrels down the lane for a layup. His athleticism has taken over the series. To be honest, it looked like you pointed your remote at Westbrook and clicked fast forward while everybody else played at a speed that actually made sense. Sometimes he’s the most unstoppable force in the NBA, sometimes he’s reckless and out of control. Either way, Westbrook plays at a pace that makes me wish I had a tank of oxygen next to me because I feel tired just watching him run around like a dog chasing a laser pointer.
The scouting report for years on the OKC Thunder has been to make Westbrook try to beat you, not Durant. Since stepping into the same room as the best players in the league, Westbrook has been viewed as an ultra competitive alpha dog that has no regard for the personal feelings of other teammates. His competitiveness literally drips off of his body when you watch him play, but that is what makes him so special. He doesn’t care about how it happens, or the feelings of anybody, he just wants to win. Winning is the most important word in Westbrook’s life and because of this, teams have deferred to Westbrook. Teams have lived and died by gambling on Westbrook forcing the issue a few too many times during games and series.
Westbrook has always been trying to find the balance, but like an animal in the jungle, instinct eventually takes over. I believe the balance of attacking vs. facilitating inside of Westbrook’s head never fully made sense until this season. It’s not that he wasn’t a smart enough player or something, but rather it was just his survival instinct once he entered the pressure cooker.
In fact, I don’t think Russell Westbrook ever made complete sense until this season. Actually, correction, there is a chance he will never fully make sense to anybody. He’s the *best athlete we’ve ever seen play the point guard position*. Can you imagine the urge he plays with, or the amount of resistance he needs to play with knowing that NO MATTER WHAT when he crosses half court the guy defending him can’t check him? Nobody knows what that feeling is like. Nobody.
*Note: If you think pre-injury Derrick Rose was a better athlete than Westbrook I have one question — Have you ever watched Westbrook play basketball?*
When you have a player like a Russell Westbrook you don’t handcuff him. You don’t limit the things he can do, but instead, you allow him to be who he is: relentless, unyielding, commanding, unhinged, fierce, uncanny, fiery, unshakeable, spontaneous, impervious, dazzling, unbreakable, and unpredictable. It’s what separates him from the rest of the league, and makes your team unique compared to the rest of the league in which you play.
When I say that this is the first time Westbrook’s mind has ever made complete sense, I’m talking from my point of view. When I watch Westbrook play basketball I have a theory on how he operates besides the obvious — he’s really talented.
After going through the deep muck of criticism that Westbrook has conquered, he has developed the most unbreakable, unshakeable mind in all of sports. He’s the most strong-willed athlete upstairs for listening to the media chirp in his face after each loss since 2012 because they believed Westbrook went “full Westbrook”. A lot of athletes are criticized and have had their games inspected and twisted by monday morning quarterbacks, but what’s the difference? Westbrook hasn’t changed a damn thing. Not. A. Damn. Thing. He never, ever crumbled from the media. He just played his game and now it’s beginning to work at the highest stage of the NBA season thus far.
If anything, Westbrook has cranked up his intensity and aggressiveness over the last two seasons for the same reasons he used to get torched for. We’ve seen him overcome the shadows of Kevin Durant and receive more MVP votes than him this season. We’ve seen Westbrook average a double-double after being told he doesn’t share the ball enough. And finally, we’ve seen Westbrook grow into the freak he is today that has boosted the Thunder to a place I didn’t think they could go, despite the lack of talent on their roster after Durant and himself. Westbrook never changed — he took the criticism, ignored it, and improved his ability.
Now, what I say next isn’t fact, but I’m just guessing that this is the reason Russell Westbrook operates the way that he does — he’s a robot. It might sound crazy, but he’s definitely not a human. In fact, he was created in the Shady/Aftermath Artist Development Center. Yes, the same place that 50 Cent was apparently repaired after taking nine bullets and recorded his “In Da Club” music video.
At the SAADC Westbrook was built to have supreme toughness, one of a kind skill, and the ability to produce a classic game at any moment while his creators — 50 Cent, Eminem, Dr. Dre — watched him be assembled from behind the glass of the basketball wing’s operation room. They wanted an athlete to become another branch of their early 2000’s empire as they all understood they’d one day be washed. As Westbrook has grown into his own since then, he has became a platinum level all-world athlete who has grown a unique ability to harvest the chatter of critics and generate it into ungodly success.
Leading up to this season Westbrook spent much of his offseason working out inside the SAADC while his creators and his closest partner, Kevin Durant, pushed him to a level that the rest of the us didn’t think was possible.
While it’s surprising to us that we are watching Westbrook and the Thunder carve the Spurs, it isn’t for a player that has spent the last two seasons listening to the country say that the best player of his position is a much less athletic, weaker guard in Golden State.
It’s possible that Westbrook has already moved on from San Antonio, partially. If the Thunder do end up defeating the Spurs, it’s possible that the Western Conference Finals will feature Westbrook playing with a chip on his shoulder so big that you can actually see it. Maybe it’ll be as big as the dent in his face from last season. Maybe it’ll be as big as the indent Dr. Dre and Eminem have created towards rap music. Maybe I’m just being selfish and type these words because I want it to happen so badly. But who doesn’t?
While Westbrook might be crazy for thinking that he’s the best point guard in the league, it certainly isn’t a question that he thinks he is. It was a debate last season until Westbrook’s injured Thunder missed the playoffs and the Warriors began chasing history. Since that moment, the beast has been chained in the basement of the SAADC while being fed scraps of newspaper headlines from Curry’s historic season. Westbrook has been working to escape from that basement since the playoffs started last season. From the way things are shaping up it looks as if he’s going to get an opportunity to bolt away and get his belt back, his way.
Many view the Thunder’s chances of defeating the Spurs and the Warriors minuscule, but as I’ve said before, as long as they have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook they absolutely have an opportunity. If two stars of their level can create magic 4/7 times than they can absolutely hurdle the unthinkable.
Win or lose, it’ll be their way — particularly Russell Westbrook’s way. The career of Russ has always been a roller coaster that the Thunder will need to ride out until he’s on the way down. His basketball talents and habits are unlike anything we’ve seen in sports. The mind of Westbrook operates in a way that is unparallel to anything because it’s not only unbreakable, but utterly unpredictable for those who aren’t extraterrestrial.