ESPN’s programming seems dedicated to three or four topics nowadays, including Tim Tebow, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Certain network personalities are insistent on creating controversy with the West’s best team. But the 40-13 Thunder do not have locker room problems. Their two shot-happy stars, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, are content. Westbrook, for all of the brooding looks he gives on the court, is loved by the rest of his team.
But he’s a point guard, an ambitious point guard, taking nearly 20 shots a game while handing out only 5.4 assists (his lowest number since his rookie season). Couple that with the fourth quarter problems that doomed the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals last season, and the blueprint for an argument is there for Skip Bayless.
But The Oklahoman writes:
And rather than taking sides with the television talking head who has had his back, Durant chose to ride with his teammate, defending Russell Westbrook from what has become daily criticism by ESPN First Take’s Skip Bayless.
“That guy doesn’t know a thing about basketball,” Durant said of Bayless before the Thunder faced Memphis on Monday night.
Bayless, a longtime sports journalist who hails from Oklahoma City, refers to himself as a Thunder fan but habitually blasts Westbrook for being a shoot-first point guard and taking more shots than Durant, the reigning two-time scoring champ.
“We’re worse when I take more shots,” Durant said. “Like I said, that guy doesn’t know a thing. I don’t think he watches us. I think he just looks at the stats. And traditionally, a point guard is not supposed to take more shots than everybody else on the team. But we’re better when he does do that and he’s aggressive. And I’m better when I’m out there facilitating, rebounding, defending and being more efficient on my shots with less shots.”
On the season, Durant has taken all of seven more shots than his aggressive point guard. Is that a bad thing? As the article points out, the team is actually 20-4 when Westbrook takes more shots than Durant. In those wins, the Thunder are also dominating by an average margin of 12.4 points. I’ve never put much worth into the relationship between wins and losses, and shot attempts. The numbers are skewed by blowouts, a team’s overall talent level and injuries. But I also know this: The Thunder are undoubtedly a worse team when Westbrook isn’t shooting, and would almost assuredly be worse off if they traded him.
Last year’s playoff failures give everyone a reason to stay “just you wait.” But if anything, it appears Oklahoma City, or at least their star and best player, wants Westbrook to be even more demanding.
Do you agree with KD?
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