What I’m Listening to: LeBron James reacts to the taking pictures of Jacob Blake and says exchange begins and leads to November.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook stood within the Houston Rockets’ corral. Did he ever take a seat down? I haven’t observed him take a seat all sequence.
Reality is, Westbrook is a frightened damage. Laborious sufficient to invite Westbrook to play 2nd chair to James Harden. I imply, Westbrook is conversant in dominating the ball whether or not his teammate is Kevin Durant or Semaj Christon. Westbrook acquiesced for Houston nearly a complete season, however no manner was once it herbal.
However now the basketball gods are asking Westbrook to take a chair. To take a seat and watch in those NBA playoffs as his outdated highest buddies attempt to disappointed his new highest buddies.
It’s a minor miracle that Westbrook — dressed in capri pants, a Kobe jersey and wild eyes — didn’t sprint onto the courtroom in Sport Four Monday night time and disrupt a Thunder rapid smash.
Even if he’s sidelined by means of a quad damage, Westbrook looms massive. No longer along with his absence. Along with his presence. Westbrook has gotten extra community air time than Houston’s Danuel Area Jr., who has scored 16 issues a sport on this 2-2 sequence.
Don’t blame the cameras. They’re identical to us. We will’t take our eyes off Westbrook. By no means may just. It all the time was once so in his 11 Thunder seasons, and it’s so now, when he’s dressed in Rocket purple.
There was once Westbrook on Monday night time, jawing with former teammates Dennis Schröder and Steven Adams. We don’t know the subject material — the Zoom press convention calls save you an excessive amount of interrogation, and Billy Donovan didn’t contact the query once I requested Tuesday.
Schröder, I am getting. Dennis is usually a threat and isn’t above a fracas or 4. However Adams? Stone Chilly is a person of peace and love. Forceful in frame however candy in spirit. He’s as sturdy as Samson and may just convey down the Orlando bubble simply by yanking at the unsuitable pillar.
Westbrook and Adams have been rapid buddies in Oklahoma Town, a minimum of at the courtroom. Westbrook would leap on even gifted teammates (Serge Ibaka almost certainly nonetheless is in treatment), however Westbrook didn’t mess with Adams. Discretion by no means was once a Westbrook sturdy swimsuit, however we all know he had some, as a result of Adams.
It’s possible that Westbrook is simply going stir loopy, sitting out this sequence, particularly now that the Thunder has gained two directly tight video games and threatens to ship the Rockets house ahead of September.
All of which makes you suppose Westbrook quickly will go back, even supposing he’s no longer in a position.
Houston trainer Mike D’Antoni didn’t even attempt to promote us at the choice being completely as much as the Rockets scientific team of workers.
“It’s shut,” D’Antoni mentioned Tuesday. “They’ll make a excellent name, and he’ll do the similar. No longer going to rule anything else out or anything else in.”
The Rockets didn’t appear to want Westbrook the primary two video games, each double-digit Houston wins. However those closing two video games, Harden has wanted a cavalry.
The Rockets have scored 22 and 21 fourth-quarter issues the closing two video games, and Harden turns out worn down. That’s an outdated complaint of the Feared Beard. Most certainly legitimate. How may just he no longer be worn down? He dribbles 49,00Zero occasions a sport, drives into the bushes dozens of occasions and takes his justifiable share of beatings.
Heck, Harden will get in a exercise simply along with his no-call touring violations on step-back Three-pointers.
That’s why Westbrook was once so treasured for Houston. The Rockets have constructed the entirety round Harden for the reason that Thunder’s original-sin industry of 8 years in the past. Chris Paul arrived in summer season 2017 and gave Harden aid when he took his relaxation. When that marriage ended, Paul and Westbrook swapped addresses.
To nice acclaim. Westbrook is precisely what Harden wanted. An All-Famous person sidekick when Harden was once at the courtroom and a load-bearing famous person when Harden was once at the bench.
This season, ahead of the pandemic, Houston was once Five-Four with Harden however with out Westbrook and Zero-1 with Westbrook however with out Harden. That’s Five-Five when both famous person sits.
Turns out transparent the Rockets want Westbrook. That’s no longer ground-breaking information. Who doesn’t want an additional famous person?
With out Westbrook, Houston’s offense is 4 guys status round and Harden doing all of the paintings till he dishes for an opener Three-pointer. Westbrook isn’t a stand-around man. He would calm down the Rockets.
“Clearly everyone knows what form of participant Russell is,” mentioned OKC’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “If he does come again, issues will exchange and our sport plan will exchange a bit of bit, including a participant like that to the lineup.
“However as of at this time we are simply taking part in it by means of ear like the remainder of you guys.”
Can Westbrook go back? Some say the tv clips of his exercise Monday display a man in a position to get again at the courtroom. Others say they see him favoring his proper leg.
I don’t know. If Willis Reed may just hobble into Madison Sq. Lawn 50 years in the past, I guess Westbrook may just experience to the rescue.
“We went into Sport 1 making ready like he was once going to play,” Donovan mentioned. “For sure he makes their staff so much sooner. He makes their staff higher.
“If he performs, we’re going to be ready for simply the rate and tempo at which he will play at and the way in which he is producing and getting the ones different guys photographs.”
May Westbrook be the swing vote? Positive. He additionally may just harm the Rockets, if he’s no longer in a position. Understanding his obstacles additionally isn’t a Westbrook sturdy swimsuit. Each and every minute counts when the sequence is 2-2.
It sort of feels relatively conceivable that the Thunder’s playoff fortunes, which for see you later have been held in Westbrook’s arms, nonetheless may hinge on him.
Practice Berry Tramel on Twitter @BerryTramel