While the NBA remains Lebron James’ kingdom, there is absolutely no doubt Russell Westbrook is ready to challenge for the crown. The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar is leading his team into the postseason, again, and some are already picking OKC to match up against the winner in the East in the NBA Finals.
First, though, Westbrook and his team have to get by Houston in the first round. While the Thunder would love to be able to focus on the task at hand, everyone else seems to want to talk about how Westbrook deserves to be MVP. And that “everyone” includes old school superstar, Oscar Robertson.
It’s tough to argue with Robertson’s assessment. Westbrook finished the season with 42 triple doubles, a staggering number that led to his second scoring title in three years. When the press asked him about this incredible achievement and if he thought it made him a shoo-in for the MVP award, Westbrook paused meaningfully and just said: “Next question.” Clearly, Russell has no interest in discussing things that are out of his hands.
He wants to talk about getting team wins, because he knows it will take a lot more than Westbrook’s stellar court skills to get the Thunder past Houston, much less past the eventual winner in the East, which most oddsmakers are saying will end up being Cleveland, even though the Cavs are not the number one seed in the east. That honor belongs to Boston, which surprised a lot of people – both writers and fans – this season. Westbrook hopes to see his team do the same. Speaking with reporters, he said:
“The group of guys that we have, especially going into the playoffs — we’ve got to make sure we come ready to play, because we know they’re (Houston) going to be ready…”
This sounds like the kind of thing that any team leader will say coming into the postseason, but when it’s Westbrook you know, he means it. After the shocking departures of Kevin Durant to rival Golden State and Serge Ibaka to Toronto, Westbrook is the lone leader and unquestioned marquee player on a team that simply doesn’t have the power it did when OKC made a run a year ago.
Westbrook’s team is young and relatively inexperienced, but it is his team. He has the lead, and he has the burden, and that may be exactly what he needs to take his team to the promised land. If Westbrook does get past Golden State in the West, it will not only be a massive rebuke to the Get Ours Now culture of today’s NBA, and it will come off as a true David and Goliath story. The Warriors breezed into the playoffs, the number one seed in the West. OKC limped in at six, and their first test, Houston, is at number three.