Berry Tramel: “In fact, the Thunder has taken on an air of nobility as it preps for the opener in
Philadelphia against the 76ers. Stiff upper lips. Still fighting the good fight. The Thunder always was going to be the underdog in the post-Durant era. That’s the fallback position for the team that loses a superstar. But the more Durant talks — the latest in an overwrought Rolling Stone story last week — the more sympathetic the Thunder becomes. OKC looks like the wronged lover in a relationship gone sour.”
Brett Dawson on Russ averaging a triple-double: “And Westbrook has the ball more than almost anyone. He ranked seventh in the NBA last season in touches at 88.8 per game, and he possessed the ball for 8.1 minutes per game, second only to Portland guard Damian Lillard. He’s a high-level scorer and playmaker, the only player in the NBA last season to average double-digit assists and more than 20 points. Westbrook racks up assists, NBA.com stats analyst John Schuhmann said, in part because he seeks them out, passing primarily when it leads directly to a score rather than to get the ball moving. The Thunder passed the ball fewer times than anyone in the NBA last season, but Westbrook piled up assists.”
Tyler Parker on Nick Collison: “Collision is the wise sage of these Thunder, has been for a while now. He plays in such a way that when he inevitably starts bleeding, either from court or from elbow, it seems like it somehow belongs on him, like that’s his base state, how he’s meant to be.”
Jenni Carlson on how Russ will play: “Is “hair on fire” a playing style? He’s always played that way, but I see the fire being hotter and bigger than ever. Sometimes, that will be to the team’s detriment; he’ll throw it into the third row or take ill-advised shots. But I believe that most of the time, that fire will benefit the team. Russ is the leader, and if this team is going to play hard and be tough – musts when you aren’t as talented as some of your opponents — he has to model that. My guess is, he will.”
Fred Katz: “The national narrative was often focused on the division between the two stars: Westbrook didn’t pass enough. He took too many shots from Durant. To strangers, Westbrook represented a contrarian candidate. Westbrook, whether on the court, in fashion or in his Los Angeles lifestyle, wanted to do his own thing. That sentiment spilled over to predictions about who would stay and who would go, too. Just about everyone thought Durant would run for another term. He had led the organization for so long in the most authentic of ways. Westbrook seemed sure to head for the sunny shores of L.A., a place that seemed to epitomize his aesthetic, as opposed to the Oklahoma prairie.”
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Now he has motivation. Westbrook will talk about not caring, about how he doesn’t think of Durant’s defection or the way sources close to the Warriors and their new star buried him in the press. But beneath that is the glare in his eye when he talks about the decision, or words Durant has spoken. There’s the way Durant left, in a text message. There’s the Air Jordan commercial, and more than anything there’s Westbrook’s inherent nature.
Those frustrated by Westbrook’s carelessness will be driven to madness this season. Those excited by his superhuman athleticism will be thrilled to euphoria. The Thunder will be inconsistent, brilliant, reckless, physical and divine, all week by week. Westbrook is that gunslinger left in the desert for the snakes. He has wandered back into town, and hell hath followed with him.”