Thunder Notebook: Tuesday, May 8
Trading Russell Westbrook
ESPN’s Zach Lowe set the Internet on fire when, on Monday’s Lowe Post podcast, he suggested people around the NBA are convinced the Thunder should explore trading Russell Westbrook.
“There’s an increasing number of people around the league who think the Thunder should look at trading [Russell] Westbrook. To be clear, not a report. Not Thunder sources think they should do this. Just in spitballing ideas with teams around the league, there’s a number of people who have heard, just like, ‘It’s time for something to change here.’ My reaction to that is no one should touch that contract with a 10-foot pole.”
Lowe mentioned it but it’s worth repeating — thisisn’t
a rumor or anything actively being kicked around. It’s just people around the league talking and expressing their opinions. Nothing more, nothing less. Regardless, Thunder fans aren’t happy about it being a topic of discussion.
And look — I get it. I really do. No one wants to trade Westbrook. I once traded him on NBA 2K18 and felt so bad about it that I had to turn the game off. In a perfect world, he would stay in Oklahoma City for the remainder of his career, competing for and perhaps even winning an NBA championship. That’s the reality every Thunder fan wants to live in.
However, with Westbrook approaching 30 years of age and his 5-year, $205 million supermax extension beginning in the 2018-19 season — along with an uncertain future for the team as we know it — the climate is ripe for discussions about tearing it all down and starting anew. In the “if you’re not first, you’re last” Ricky Bobby mindset, anything short of a Larry O’Brien trophy is considered a failure — a belief system that Westbrook himself has always seemed subscribed to. With that in mind, it’s not inconceivable to believe the Thunder may one day auction off its parts in order to compete down the road. It’s difficult to think about but it makes sense. As we’ve heard time and time again, this is a business.
But here in the short term, Paul George is the first order of business and his decision will wildly swing other existing narratives in all directions. Regardless of what happens with George, Sam Presti and the Thunder are a virtual lock to continue trying to build a contender around Westbrook for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t put too much thought/concern into him changing locations.
Dwight Howard Speaks Out
Dwight Howard appeared on ESPN’s “Get Up” with Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose, speaking on a number of NBA-related topics — including the struggles and ultimate collapse of the OK3.
When asked which player should have sacrificed more, Howard said:
“I would say Russ. I would say Russ because Russ has the ball more times in his hands. And I watched Carmelo and Paul George at times and they were just standing there watching.
Late in the games, I think the ball should have been more in Carmelo’s hands because he’s more of a closer. Paul George, he’s that guy that’s going to get you the 20-30 points between the first and the third quarter.
Russ, he should just facilitate, get everybody involved early in the game, and just let those guys play. At this point in his career, he’s done everything as far as the individual. He has all the accolades. But now, it should just be about making everyone around him better.”
Wanting more out of Westbrook isn’t original commentary, as there’s been plenty of that over the past couple weeks. However, the source here — Dwight freakin’ Howard — is comical considering he’s hardly a beacon of sacrifice himself. Let us not forget that he was a complete bust alongside James Harden in Houston because he wanted to post up more often.
I also directly challenge the notion that more Carmelo Anthony was the cure for OKC’s ailments. Perhaps Howard was watching a different team than the rest of us, but Melo shot 37 percent and made just 19 percent of his three-point attempts in the first round versus Utah. The only remedy that had much success at all was pulling the 10-time All-Star off the floor altogether.
Considering Howard was the Melo of the 2012-13 Lakers, it makes sense he’d come to his defense. His comments about Westbrook were likely just suppressed bits of Kobe-inspired anger bubbling to the surface. Nothing to see here.