Last night’s West Conf semifinals rematch of the OKC Thunder vs Memphis Grizzlies lived up to it’s hype. While the Thunder went on to win 98-95 w/ Durant icing the game in the final seconds, the big story was the play or lack thereof of pointshooting guard Russell Westbrook. He had a quiet, real quiet night shooting 0-13 from the field, managing 4 points from the free throw line. Luckily James Harden is starting to really put it together on the offensive end, as he supplied the ‘Robin’ to Durant’s ‘Batman’ last night with a 20 point performance.
Possibly as a result of his frustration due to his struggles last night Westbrook fired off a couple choice words at guard Thabo Sefolosha as he passed up an open shot in the second quarter. In retaliation and most likely in defense of Thabo, Durant shot back at Westbrook.
Peep this little convo between Doug Gottlieb and Jalen Rose (two analysts that are Swish approved)
The “beef between the post and the point” is generally not a problem when it comes to the NBA, we’ve seen it before (Shaq n Kobe), (KG/Pierce n Rondo). But what’s interesting about this duo is that Durant doesn’t seem to be the outright leader of the team as Shaq was and as KG was. While 10 of the 12 may accept Durant as the man on the team, there’s that 1 who hasn’t quite caught on, that’s Russ.
Both of these guys are 23 and regardless of the amount of years spent in the NBA 23 years old remains relatively young to be a leader. I see a power struggle at the top of the Thunder’s food chain, a lot of it has to do with Westbrook’s mentality, I don’t think that he believes that he’s the #2 option on the team. He wants the same shots that Durant gets, he wants the same MVP chants that Durant gets. A lot of this has to do with the age of this team and the fact that your two “leaders” don’t seem to be in tune with one another. Of Course Kobe wanted the same glory that Shaq had but Shaq knew that in order for them to win he had to be the man, same with Mike and Scottie, Duncan and Ginobili. But in all of those scenarios what you had was one player who was a little more experienced than the other, one who had a couple more notches under his belt, Durant and Westbrook are basically eye for eye in accolades (that truly matter). Somebody has to take a backseat, or as ppl like to put it now someone needs to take a seat and that person is Westbrook.
As for the arguing on the bench last night, only time will tell how that helped or hurt the Thunder. If Westbrook is open to the criticisms of Durant then they’ll continue to flourish, but if he sees those criticisms as just that and that alone, then the Thunder may have a cancer on their hands.
We have high expectations for this group, and they’re one of the best teams to watch because of Durant first and Westbrook second. But if the situation is a little more delicate than we know it to be, this may be their last year or even couple of games together.