Russell Westbrook and the Elusive Happy Ending

We talk all things Russell Westbrook, including trading him…..

How surprised are you that Kevin Durant didn’t clue Westbrook in on his leaving, that Russ was blindsided by his “friend”?

C.J. Hampshire: Was he blindsided? Or was he betrayed? I don’t mean that in terms of leaving the Thunder. Durant is a grown man. He can leave one job and take another if he wants to. But the 8 year bond the two had created deserved decency, don’t you think?

Mallory Stith-Wheat: I was surprised that Durant lacked basic manners. When he won his MVP and gave that beautiful speech about his teammates and that wonderful tribute to his mother, the talking point was how Durant was a different kind of NBA player. He was thoughtful and respectful and generous. Sucker punching Westbrook wasn’t generous.

Julian Billick: On a scale of 1-10, I would say my surprise at Durant’s bad friendship behavior is a 2. This is the thing. When you divorce, when you walk out then you walk out. No advance warning. No goodbye letter. No thanks for the memories. Men do this to women all the time and no is that put out by it.

Brendan Gillespie: Durant just seemed like the type of person who would clue in a friend. When he was speaking at his Warriors debut presser he talked about how much it meant for Klay and Draymond and Steph and Andre to be there and recruit him. So he gets the bond teammates have. And yet, he totally ripped to shreds whatever relationship he and Westbrook had. But he may be one of those dudes who has to burn the house down.

Is Westbrook on the Thunder in 12 weeks, on October 28th? And should he be?

Julian: Yes, he will be on the Thunder. Westbrook won’t sign an extension with anyone, not even the Thunder, and why should he? The cap is going up again. The extension won’t be grandfathered in. He’s a top-5 player. He can get the max. If he is traded, and that is a big if- the Thunder will be getting garbage in value. Sure, whoever gets him knows its a rental but who is going to give up what you would have to give up to see Westbrook go in nine months.

Mallory: No he will not be on the Thunder. It’s James Harden, part two. They will try to wrangle some kind of three team trade to get as many pieces as they can and when they do it will sink the Thunder for years to come. They won’t get expiring deals. The point of getting pieces for Westbrook is to have a replacement, not someone who can leave. The players they bring in will be above average, at best. They’ll be the Orlando Magic. When you lose a top-5 player, you start rebuilding.

Brendan: I think the only team crazy enough to trade for him and not care that he doesn’t sign an extension is the Lakers. They’ll give up D’Angelo Russell for him and frankly if the Thunder can make that deal, I’d do it. Russell is a talent that if he can get his maturity in check, he’ll be an offensive threat in the league the next decade. The Thunder have to face the sober reality that trading Westbrook means throwing in the towel.

C.J.: The Thunder have zero leverage in this. It’s a cautionary tale about superstars and making sure they are happy. One day you are a contender and the next day you are middle of the pack ala Dallas Mavericks and then you are…the Sacramento Kings. Westbrook holds all the cards which is why he is being so quiet.

When Westbrook played at UCLA, Kevin Love was the star. In OKC, it was Kevin Durant. Does he really want to be the number one guy? Will he be happy if he stays?

C.J.: He got a taste of it when Durant was injured. It is exhausting when everything is on you all of the time. It’s why LeBron left Cleveland. No one, not even Westbrook, knows if he is cut out for this. In a way, he is the Kevin Durant collateral damage. He has to suffer for a Durant decision.

Julian: It doesn’t matter if he is happy. It matters if he is professional. It matters if he can find a way to bring this team together utilizing his talent and the Thunder don’t take too much of a step back and Oladipo can learn to guard someone and not ball hog, then I think Westbrook has a good chance of staying in OKC as long as they sign another star in the offseason and I don’t mean Oladipo who has never been in the playoffs.

Brendan: I think he will be both. He will be happy at times and, without Durant as a buffer, he’ll be unhappy. The Thunder are not the same team and so they have to relearn everything. He’s going to have to take Durant’s place. Being without Durant, after 8 years of being with Durant, is going to be hard when it’s not basketball, when it’s the media, when it’s everyone expecting you to carry this team on your back and be the vocal leader, when its community responsibilities. Westbrook is first on the speed dial now. Remember what MJ said to Scottie Pippen: It’s tough being me. Well, i’s going to be tough being Kevin Durant.

Mallory: Whether he stays in OKC or is traded, he’ll be the only star. He’ll be forced into a role he didn’t sign up for. That’s why he can’t sign an extension. He has to know if he can do this, take Durant’s place. If he can’t, then in the offseason he’ll sign with the Clippers and replace Chris Paul and play with Blake Griffin. If they can’t trade him, what the Thunder hope is that he will like this new job forced upon him, that he will be reborn.


photo via llananba