Get ready for weaponized Russell Westbrook
Close your eyes. Think of a disaster movie. Any disaster movie. You don’t really have to get specific or have watched the movie in its entirety, a trailer will do. In particular the parts of the trailer where you look at the screen in despair asking “what happened to all the people.” I’m talking tertiary knowledge of any disaster or global cataclysm movie in the world. Think of the Godzilla remake. Pacific Rim. Anything. Now, picture pissed off Russell Westbrook marauding 28 NBA arenas for at least 82 games. Open your eyes. Wipe off the cold sweat.
In the fallout of the Kevin Durant decision I wrote an article imagining where Russ would go next while quietly hoping he would stay in Oklahoma, like a juvenile miscreant who hopes that confessing to a crime will grant him more leniency. Except this juvenile miscreant got his wish.
We now get at least 164 games of Russell Westbrook plus the playoffs for two more years. Russ put pen to paper on a three-year deal (player option on the second to make serious bank once he hits that coveted 10-years experience spot for 35% of max cap) and cemented his place in the pantheon of OKC Sports (Oklahoma City, you now have to build a pantheon of sports. Yes, specifically for Russell Westbrook and his momentous decision). From now until forever he is the hero in the playground argument of Russ vs. Durant. He is the one who stayed. He is the Indiana Jones to Durant’s Dr Elsa Schneider. He is infallible to Oklahoma.
This is not the same Oklahoma City Thunder that was literally a step away from the NBA Finals, the step it was incapable of taking with Durant. Without KD, a deep playoff run becomes a pipe-dream as the West re-ups, heals up and gets stronger. But having one of top 5 players in the league is better than having none and as far as silver linings go, I’d say this is a good one. With a core of Oladipo, Kanter, Payne, Roberson and Russell running the pick and roll with Steven Adams this team is in the playoff conversation.
Adams put in his best stint in the 2016 Playoffs showing he has the speed to keep up defensively on the perimeter to compliment his gargantuan build. If he manages to get better from the mid-range he will be a solid second option. Billy Donovan showed enough adjustments to make us permanently believe Enes Kanter may be a productive player. With Oladipo they also have a second ball handler and a top 10 wing defender. There are pieces here that may or may not come together to resemble a plan, even though this team is still disastrously thin on shooters in the League that values the three almost as much as human beings value oxygen. Still, it all hinges on Russell Westbrook.
Remember the time when Kevin Durant was out with a nagging injury and Russell Westbrook got his first test-drive of the used vehicle he now inherits by default. Remember when he basically ate triple-doubles for breakfast? Even with Durant back, it hasn’t slowed down his meta-human rate of racking up stats across three categories. Remember when he eliminated passing from his default list of basketball fundamentals? Remember when he moved so fast you wonder why there aren’t tread marks in his wake? Well, we’re getting this Russ for at least 164 games.
Look, no one plays harder than Russell Westbrook. Sometimes it’s because his team needs him to, sometimes it’s because he feels like it. There is no default lower setting on Russ, but there could be a higher one. A wise man once said that 110% is a myth, watching Russ attack the rim like it whispered something about his momma under its breath makes me believe we might just witness it. It doesn’t really matter if the Thunder are down by 3, 10, 25 or up by 20. Don’t touch that Russ dial because he is going for something like 50 attempts per game and at least 25 assaults at the rim that have arena managers renegotiating their equipment insurance and triple checking backboard integrity.
They don’t need to make a new Hulk movie, pissed off Russell Westbrook is it and we get at least 164 games of it.