Since Russell Westbrook put on an Oklahoma City uniform in 2008, there's been a debate: Are Kevin Durant and the Thunder better with or without him in the starting lineup? Westbrook is the boy who refuses to grow up. Now, five years into his career, his shtick has worn thin. This year, with a bum knee limiting him to just 46 games, the debate seems to be resolved. Or in any case, it should be. As Durant grew into his role this year as both a ball handler and scorer, the team went on a 15-2 run as K-Dog took advantage of six more field goal attempts per game. Westbrook was out of the way.
That's not to say Westbrook doesn't have a certain appeal. He's probably the most physically gifted point guard in the league. But his decision-making frequently rivals that of similarly-skilled 13 year-flameout Stephon Marbury, who used to decide before he crossed half court whether he would shoot it himself or pass, regardless of the options the defense presented. Westbrook's second game back, against the Clippers, offered a perfect example of the problems with his play. With three minutes left, the Thunder were up three. Then Westbrook entered the game and started bouncing around the court like a deranged pinball. He clanged an 18-footer to put him at three of 12 shooting for the game. With 35 seconds to go, he fired a three off the far side of the backboard. Durant didn't get another look, and the Thunder ultimately lost by eight.
But it's not just about poor or too-frequent shot attempts. With Westbrook at the helm, the offense itself is moribund for long stretches. Unless he heaves one in the first few seconds of the possession, he'll dribble relentlessly (probably in circles) leaving a helpless Durant shuffling his feet behind the three-point arc. When he eventually flies toward the hoop, fans will wonder if he'll maintain control of himself. Even his assists seem to enforce a collective paralysis: the pointless dribbling routine, narrowly saved by a cross-court that leaves the recipient fighting the shot clock.
Apologists call him "high-energy," but the man is spastic. Other sports flaks, citing his tendencies toward both excellence and ineptitude, reach for "mercurial." The word is "foolish" and no one knows that better than Kevin Durant.