Kevin Durant is going to win the MVP sooner or later, with the scoring title looking like a given thing for the next few years unless LeBron James turns into a selfish SOB every night. Still, his on and off court relationship with Russell Westbrook is the key to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s aspirations of becoming NBA champions, not Durant’s own success.
Now, lets begin with the good. The Thunder beat the Memphis Grizzlies 98-95, making it a 3-0 start. The Thunder and the Griz put up one heck of series last year in the Western Conference playoff. More than that, these two teams have the potential of becoming quite the rivals in the coming years. Both young and rising, with more than a few similarities. The small market thing also united the two.
Durant got off to a slow start, but eventually finished with a typical stat line of 32 points and 8 rebounds, with a lot of help from James Harden who scored 20 off the bench. Yes, we didn’t mention Russell Westbrook, and we’ll get to him in a minute. Durant hit the big shots in the end, keeping the Grizzlies, who lost Mike Conley after only 24 seconds as he hurt his ankle and left the game, win less after 2 games.
The biggest story of the night was Russell Westbrook, who was coming off a 28 point performance against the Timberwolves. Well, Westbrook became a part of statistical history, shooting 0-13. Yes, 0-13, finishing with 4 points. He turned over the ball four times, which is his lowest number this season. He didn’t impress last year with his Turnover-Assist ratio, putting up a 2.2.
Well he’s the first player to miss all 13 field goal attempts and win the game since David Wesley in 2001, and only the fourth in over 25 years. And Westbrook, despite being an All-NBA type talent on a good night, has a few things to figure out on how to make himself useful when the shots don’t drop.
The worst thing for the Thunder last night was the shouting match between Durant and Westbrook. Westbrook found and open Sefolosha, a shooting guard who doesn’t love to shoot, and Thabo gave up on an open three. Westbrook came up to him in fury, shouting out some expletives. He couldn’t be calmed on the bench, and when Kevin Durant came over to Westbrook and tried to get hold of the situation, it became a shouting match between the two.
Kevin Durant didn’t seem worried in the post game interview – We’re going to disagree sometimes, like I’ve always been saying. But I’m behind him 110 percent, and he’s the same way with me. And you seen when we came on the floor we clicked and everything started to work from there.
That part is true, but there’s always this feeling that Westbrook isn’t all that happy playing second fiddle to the best scorer in the league. He kept jacking up bricks despite his awful night, instead of spreading the wealth. It’s going to be better for the Thunder and Westbrook himself if he limits himself to 10-12 shots a night. Less if nothing is falling for him.
The alpha-dog battle is there, have no doubt. As long as the winning continues and the Thunder’s weaknesses aren’t exposed, which they might stay hidden until the playoffs due to the problems with some potential Western crown contenders, things will be fine. When the losses come, and Westbrook has more off nights and finds himself in frustration looking at Durant and Harden carrying the team on their backs, it might start some trouble.