We had not seen many people talking about this Russell Westbrook guy, so Larry Hughes and I decided to really go against the grain and make him the focus of this week’s Bleav in Wizards podcast. (Author’s note: yes, that was sarcasm. Yes, we realize he’s getting a lot of media attention right now. And yes, we think it’s warranted).
At the end of the day, winning basketball games is still priority number 1 so we decided to open the show by breaking down the final play of the Wizards’ May 10th loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Judging from the online reaction, it seemed like most fans believed Scott Brooks should have called a timeout. I wanted Hughes to weigh in on what was most typical in his playing experience.
To sum up his stance, Hughes believed that either calling timeout to run a play or attacking before the defense could set up would have been defensible. He also supported a hybrid approach of trying to attack initially and calling a timeout if nothing opened up. Hughes would have liked to have seen Westbrook take something other than a three-pointer while down one but also understood that it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you catch the defense off-guard, sometimes they beat you to the spot and you try to make the best of it.
As much as we would have liked to see them pull out that game, it’s hard to take too much issue with Westbrook directly right now. Admittedly, I don’t always find his style of the most aesthetically pleasing but I appreciate the intensity. Hughes and I both believe you have to take the good with the bad, and with Westbrook, the good has far exceeded the bad over the last two months or so.
Hughes believes that Westbrook’s relentlessness is his greatest attribute. I asked him about playing Westbrook as a rookie and when he knew that Westbrook had a chance to be a special player. Hughes, who was also a somewhat raw, athletic lottery pick, felt that Westbrook’s athleticism and rebounding stood out immediately. He also acknowledged the strides Westbrook has made as a player and tactician. Specifically, the way he exploits angles on the court to set up his teammates.
Like most, Hughes felt that shooting would be Westbrook’s swing skill and if he improved that he would have a chance at a long, successful NBA career. That’s not to say he saw anything close to Westbrook’s triple double record coming.
I can’t be the only fan who has “triple double fatigue” after listening to the broadcast crew but it is a mind-blowing accomplishment. That fact that Westbrook’s teams win 75% of their games when he has a triple double should dispel any criticism about whether he’s a “good stats, bad team” guy or not.
We spent a good portion of the show talking about Westbrook surpassing Oscar Robertson, whether or not that record will ever be broken, and we tried to put his accomplishment into historical perspective. Hughes, a versatile player in his own right, stressed just how hard it is to record even one triple double.
Maybe the Westbrook “stans” have just dominated my Twitter timeline but it certainly seems like the majority of fans have come around on Westbrook and the trade that brought him to Washington. We received one particularly topical fan question this week, wondering if the Wizards should try to “sell-high” on Westbrook this off-season.
Hughes and I both thought they are better off trying to build around what they have and found it doubtful they would receive equal value in a trade due to Westbrook’s age and contract. This did make me wonder if Westbrook would be viewed around the league as a positive asset at this point and what a trade for him would even look like. I would be interested to hear what everyone thinks about that in the comments.
We also discussed Bradley Beal’s injury, whether or not he should play the rest of the regular season and his Twitter feud with Kent Bazemore. Hughes also offered his perspective on what makes some coaches more successful in certain situations (like Nate McMillan in Atlanta) and why players seem to dominate against certain teams (like Westbrook against the Pacers). Additionally, we were asked to pick which veteran back-up point guard was a better fit for next year, Raul Neto or Ish Smit,h and if either Alex Len or Robin Lopez should be back next season. If you ever have similar questions, feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.