The first game has come and gone for the Oklahoma City Thunder and one thing is evidently clear. Folks really like bringing the slander to Russell Westbrook.
If you were ever unsure that the 2012-13 season was officially underway, then there are plenty of indicators of give you the signal that we are back in full effect. Lets see, there's the ring ceremony. Check. There's twitter going nuts with basketball bloggers getting their sanity back. Check. There's the sports fans who have horrible teams they root for in the NFL and the NBA is there only hope left (this is me). Check. Oh, and there's one more sure-fire indicator, it never fails.
Russell Westbrook is slandered to the high heavens during the first game of the season.
Check. Check. CHECK.
You all know that I've defended Russell Westbrook on many an occasion...but good grief. Thursday night was tough to go through. Did you see that last play of the San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game? Yeah, you know the one that the Thunder lost after Tony Parker put Westbrook in the blender?
Hey Russ....homie....where in hades were you going? Tony Parker was THAT way.
Look, everyone makes mistakes, and I'm not going to hold that mental error over the head of Russell Westbrook. Stuff happens. People are going to spew venom at Westbrook for this play, but it won't be the only thing that makes them upset. Let's take a look at that stat line.
18 points (6-21 shooting), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 turnovers.
Definitely not one of Westbrook's greatest performances, and I'd say that with Thunder fans on edge with that little trade that happened a few days before the season started, folks were hoping for a bit more from No. 0. The departure of James Harden is forcing the hand of head coach Scott Brooks to find ways to allow his his former teammates to pick up the slack. Sure, Kevin Durant will continue to score at a high rate, but how much more can he really do? Kevin Martin was acquired from Houston in the trade and performed admirably on Thursday with a 15 point, 5 assist night, Martin looked timid and unsure. Martin will figure out his role eventually, but he's just not the player that Harden was. Its no debate.
So that leaves us with Westbrook. The bad shot taking, non-pass making, defensive guessing and otherworldly perplexing guard who's left to pick up the proverbial slack. Can he do it? What does that type of Westbrook look like? Is it a case of less is more? Where Westbrook takes less shots means a more efficient Thunder offense? Where checking his emotions at the door before stepping on the court?
Of course not.
This is the Russell Westbrook we've come to love and hate. Some of us love No. 0 more than others, but realistically this guy is who he is going to be. Attacking the rim in such a fashion has proven to be more productive that damaging. Playing with fire and brimstone has a way of motivating others to work hard, not putting them in a downtrodden state. Scott Brooks knows it, Kevin Durant knows it, and the rest of the Thunder organization knows it.
Oh, and you want to know a little something....gonna drop you in on a little secret.
This is only the first game of the season. We have a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers. James Harden ain't walking through that door.
These are all things that are important to remember right now, because in a few weeks you'll sit back and laugh at all of this, while watching Russell Westbrook dunk on three people at the same damn time. Its a long season folks, the sky is not falling.