The Return of Russ

Last night was incredible. It was special. It was something I have never experienced before in my life. Last night, Russell Westbrook returned to Chesapeake Arena for the first time as a visiting player, in a blowout win for Oklahoma City.

I could spend time here talking about the game, but I don’t want to do that, because last night was about more than one game. To be precise, it was about 821 games, and a million more moments. It would have been so easy for him to leave OKC earlier than he did, with star after star leaving until he became the last man standing.

The love was apparent from well before the video (I’ll get there), as this video has made me drop into a puddle of pure emotion on 7 separate occasions today.

The night officially started with the first video tribute in the history of the Thunder organization, and oh buddy was it something.

The waterworks began for me at about the 0:01 mark. This was followed by an ovation so loud it shook the foundation of the very organization Westbrook has known and loved for over a decade. Then, an intro that made even the hardest hearts turn to butter.

And then, something very special happened. Maybe nobody understands the significance of what happens here, but don’t you dare tell that to any Thunder fan, because it happened. He did the thing.

He’s done this for a long time now, but the way that this resonates with a crowd that prides itself on the Loud City reputation it got during those early 2010’s playoff runs is incredible. It pumps them up, giving them the assurance that no matter what, 0 was going to show up and bring the energy.

Last night was unforgettable. It had me and damn near everybody in their feelings, and rightly so. This was not a regular homecoming. As is par for the course with Russell Westbrook, it was vibrant, it was emotional, it was so uniquely Russ.

Russell was a flawed player on some flawed teams and the 30 for 30 on that OKC Dynasty That Never Was will probably punch me in the chest with the force of a thousand Westbrook dunks. None of that is being disputed.

There have been better players in history, there will be better players to come. But last night was about the love between a man and a city, and a bond that will never be broken. All of the defending we did on Twitter about his triple doubles never felt like a chore, because it wasn’t. He’s your favorite player’s favorite player for a reason.

To my New York friends who just don’t get it, or those of you who will make the RANGZ argument, the stat padding arguments, we don’t care. Does that stop you from celebrating players like Henrik Lundqvist or David Wright? Of course not. Philly has Allen Iverson, Utah has Stockton and Malone, the Knicks have Ewing. They are and will forever be adored where they are, and beyond.

The worst thing in sports has become Ring Culture. If you don’t win a championship you’re a failure. You need a ring to have a legacy. Last night was the ultimate showing of resistance against that.

I will tell my kids about Russell Westbrook, and the utterly unique joy he brought me during my time rooting for him on the Thunder. I will make damn sure my kids tell their kids about him. And that’s a damn legacy.

Russell Wesbrook, forever and ever.


Russell Westbrook: Hero Or Villain?

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“Nobody knows who I am. That’s my motivation. Keep working hard and someday somebody is going to notice,” said a 19-year-old Russell Westbrook to VIBE back in 2008. Fast forward to 2017 and well Russell, everyone knows who you are for better or worse. As Westbrook’s record-breaking season came to an end in Houston Tuesday night, with the Thunder dropping the deciding game 5 Westbrook finished one assist shy of another triple-double.

Take it back to July, where the 2017 Russell Tour began with Durant taking his talents to the Warriors whom they just lost a grueling 7-game series to just a month prior. The 28-year-old played with a reckless abandon every night giving his all, powering the Thunder to 47 wins while becoming the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in ’61.

The heroics pulled off each night from the 28-year-old made the NBA regular-season a must watch again, unlike prior seasons. As this made for the best MVP race that I can remember at least. Those last few weeks seemed to push the narrative to vault Westbrook on the path toward his first MVP award, which included two 50-point triple-doubles down the stretch.

Westbrook capped off a tremendous regular season, notching 42 triple-doubles along the way. He also happened to lead the NBA in efficiency rating (what?) and had the highest usage rate for a player ever, breaking the record once held by ’05 Kobe Bryant. Take it to the post-season where the Thunder went down in five games, which included some brutal fourth quarters from a fatigued #0. Russell averaged 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for the series but shot only 38 percent from the field and 26% from three in 39 minutes a game. When the 28-year-old left the floor, the Thunder were an anemic -58 without him in the 4-1 series defeat.

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Russell became as enigmatic and polarizing a player we’ve seen eerily reminiscent to Iverson, who led the ’01 76ers to the Finals. I haven’t seen someone carry a team like that since LeBron putting the dreadful ’07 Cavs on his back to a championship appearance and ’05 Kobe leading a porous Laker team which included Smush Parker and Kwame Brown to 45 wins. What surprised me is the articles that have been published recently slamming Westbrook for his “selfish” play and ball-hogging tendencies, and even hearing the great Mike Francesa call his stats “worthless,” which I was really taken back by.

Just appreciate Westbrook for what he did this season, a player that literally did it all for his team and they needed every single bucket, rebound and assist to get those Ws. Without him on the floor, the product was atrocious and they are a 25-win team, if they’re lucky.


2017 Brodie will live on for years long after he’s decided to stop playing basketball. We may never see a player average a triple-double again. Oklahoma City has a lot of questions to answer on a roster lacking star-power. Will they go out and add a Carmelo or Blake Griffin? Does Westbrook opt-out of his phantom extension after next season and bolt from OKC after realizing this can’t be done alone?

Either way, I applaud the fashion god and appreciate greatness when I see it. Thank you for making the regular season great again. Enjoy the time off with your new-born Brodie, you most certainly deserve it, Russ. See you next season.


Russell Westbrook Will Win The MVP, But My Vote Goes To James Harden


Russell Westbrook is going to win the MVP. I know it. You know it. NBA Writers know it. I still held out hope for James Harden, but last night was the icing on the cake for Brodie. 50 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and the game winner. His 42nd triple double of the year. All in a night’s work.

It is mind boggling to think that he is going to average a triple double on the year. 31.9 PPG, 10.4 APG, 10.7 RPG. Are you serious? That’s filthy. I think what makes it more special is that the last time someone averaged a triple double was in 1961-1962.

The Thunder were a huge question mark going into the year. The narratives of “Kevin Durant is finally away from Russell Westbrook” and “Russell Westbrook will show his true ball hog characteristics” were already set in stone before the season started. What could Russ do without KD? Well, Russ said F U to everyone and balled out. I don’t want to even think about where the Thunder would be if they didn’t have Russ. My guess is in a dumpster.

Russell Westbrook deserves the MVP.

However, this isn’t a “Russell Westbrook does not deserve the MVP” piece. He does. But…………… *drumroll please*


Fear the damn beard.

Everyone who is just anointing Westbrook as the MVP needs to take a step back and take a deep breath. You want to give it to Westbrook because of the triple doubles, but look at Harden’s numbers. Harden is averaging 29.3 PPG, 11.3, and 8.1 RPG. He’s 1.9 rebounds away from a triple double and Harden has had 21 triple doubles himself this year.

This tweet.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a big stat guy. I’m an eye test guy. But here are some numbers where Harden beats out Westbrook.

Highest win share % aka the estimate of wins contributed by a player: Harden 14.8, Westbrook 13.2. Lets go to Effective Field Goal %: Harden 52.4%, Westbrook 47.7%. Harden has Russ beat in almost every efficiency rating as well.

What hurts Harden’s case right now is Westbrook has the sexier, more glamorous stats right now. Westbrook has the momentum and he has more style points with him for all of the buzzer beaters and high PPG these past couple of weeks.

Now, it’s time for the polarizing stat that gives my vote to Harden over Westbrook.


54 wins to 46 wins.

Not sold yet? Ok, I totally get that because wins should not be the “be all, end all.” It’s hard to judge value over the amount of wins a player brings because one team can be better than the other. You want to say Harden has a better TEAM right now than Russ? I’m all for that. He does.

But let’s go to the beginning of the season. Let’s take a look at a group that every seems to look at these days. They know how to rip your heart out and stomp on your dead soul. However, they always seem to be right except for this case.

I’m talking about Vegas and the oddsmakers. Let’s take a look at the over / under odds for the beginning of the year.

The Thunder made it to the Conference Finals last year and were a game away from the Finals. However, they lost their best player, who is a top 3 player in the NBA, in Kevin Durant. Despite that, their over / under was set at 43.5.

On the flip side, the Rockets went 41-41, earned the 8th seed last year and lost to Golden State in the first round. They fired their coach and brought in Mike D’Antoni, who in his last head coaching stint, lead the Lakers to an awesome 27-55 record. Lose Dwight Howard and we have a whole new team. The over / under was set at 41.5.

The Rockets are by far the biggest surprise of the NBA. To go from 41 wins to 54 wins is incredible especially with a coach who NO ONE thought succeed right away. If you said the Rockets would be the 3 seed and have a legitimate shot to make the Conference Finals, I would’ve slapped you in the face. I give most of the credit to the play of James Harden, who stepped into the PG role and has thrived. Westbrook took his average team and made them slightly above average. It’s impressive, but what Harden has done with the Rockets is 100% more impressive. Harden has taken an average team and has made them a contender.  Keep in mind that the last 34 MVPs have been on teams in the Top 3 of their conference. Thunder are in 6th place. Rockets are in 3rd place.

It all comes down to what your prefer more. I still think Westbrook is going to win the MVP, but for his efficiency and what he has done to the Rockets, I’m giving it to Harden.

You want to know what’s awesome? The Rockets and Thunder are on a collision course for a first round matchup. Lets the games begin.

P.S. – Let’s just be honest. Kawhi Leonard should be in the discussion.

P.S.S. – Lebron James could win the MVP every year and I’d have no argument.

It Was All Good Five Years Ago. When Did It All Go Wrong?

How the new CBA, cheap OKC management and some bad luck pushed Kevin Durant to Golden State.


June 21st, 2012. The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped a deciding game 5 in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat as LeBron captured his first NBA title in South Beach. For the Thunder, it was a huge step in the right direction at the time, coming back from 2-0 against the vaunted powerhouse San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals. Just getting that finals experience was a success in itself for a team led by 4 players ages 23 and under. Durant and Westbrook bloomed as superstars, James Harden picked up 6th man of the year honors and Serge Ibaka asserted himself as one of the best shot blockers in the NBA. The Thunder put the league on watch, showing you the blueprint to building through the draft as each one of the prior names mentioned was drafted in 2007-2009 by the team, which is a credit to their general manager, Sam Presti. Everyone thought this nucleus would be back numerous times to the finals in the coming years.

What Happened?

In 2011, the new collective bargaining agreement made spending over the cap penalty harsher than ever, attempting to scare teams to go into the luxury tax. For example, in 2016 the salary cap is 94 million and the luxury tax is 113 million. The luxury tax is for every dollar you go over, there is a tax owed to the league on that dollar that goes as follows.

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This was a reaction to the 2010 Miami Heat “Big 3” of LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Keep this in mind, teams had no idea the cap influx would increase as much as it did because of the new television contract. So the luxury tax is having a reverse impact on building super teams in the league, as bigger markets are more willing to spend well into that luxury tax. The Cleveland Cavaliers owed a record 54 million to the league for their roster this past season, luckily it paid off with a championship.


Fall 2012 – James Harden significantly outplayed his 4 million dollar rookie salary and looked for an extension from the Thunder. Serge Ibaka entered the last year of his rookie deal. So it was decision time, do they go over the salary cap and into the luxury tax for the reigning 6th man of the year or extend Ibaka for cheaper and stay under the salary cap. They did the later, signing Ibaka to a 4 year, $49 million dollar extension and dealing Harden to the Houston Rockets right before the season for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, Two 1st round picks, and One 2nd round pick. A very underwhelming package for a player that went on to become a superstar and the best shooting guard in the NBA in my opinion. A huge botch by Thunder management.


The next three post seasons for the Thunder were ravaged by injury. A torn meniscus for Westbrook in 2013, a calf injury for Ibaka in 2014 and a broken foot for Durant in 2015 prevented Oklahoma City from having a healthy team at the end of the postseason, as they failed to get back to the finals.

Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) gestures after scoring a three-point basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Saturday, May 28, 2016. Golden State defeated Oklahoma City 108-101. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

May 25th, 2016 – The Thunder looked to close out the Golden State Warriors at home in Game 6 of the 3-2 series. They played a great three quarters leading by 8 at the end of the third. Enter Klay Thompson, who started scorching from deep. Nailing 4 of his 11 three pointers within the first 5 minutes of the quarter. The Thunder were apart of their fair share of blown fourth quarter leads, but could they really let this one get away? Yes, as Curry then hit two 3s, the second of which tied the game at 99 with 2:47 to play. Thompson’s 3 with 1:35 remaining put the Warriors up 104-101 over the Thunder, who turned the ball over 6 times in the last 3 minutes. The Thunder saw their chance for a title fade in those last few minutes as they crumbled under the pressure. They then went on to drop Game 7 in Oracle as the Dubs pulled off the improbable 3-1 comeback.


June 24th, 2016 – Serge Ibaka was dealt in a surprising draft night trade to the Orlando Magic. Ibaka is going into the last year of his contract. The Thunder acquired explosive combo guard Victor Oladipo, first round pick Domantas Sabonis, and forward Ersan Ilyasova. I actually thought this was a good deal and would only help their chances of retaining incoming free agent, Kevin Durant.


July 4th, 2016 – After taking meetings with numerous teams in The Hamptons, it was time for Kevin Durant to reveal where he would be playing next year in a poorly written Player’s Tribune article. I really thought there was no way he would leave the Thunder after having the Warriors on the ropes 3-1. I felt he owed it to himself and his teammates to give one more attempt to bring a championship to Oklahoma City, a franchise he helped build from the ground up. I couldn’t believe it and I still can’t picture him in a Warriors jersey. Did a 73 win team just add a superstar, who happens to be a top 5 player? How is this possible? Should we just give them the trophy now? It really is crazy, and unprecedented in the league. It all comes back to the spike in salary cap and having Steph Curry on a bargain 12 million dollar contract. I feel it’s way worse than LeBron joining forces with Bosh and Wade on South Beach in 2010. Durant is a perfect fit and that team is going to be straight up scary. If Durant is all about winning he made the best choice, but to me it will always be the quality of the championship rings you win, not the quantity that defines your legacy.

The third member of the former “Big 4” is gone and the Thunder are left in quite the conundrum. Do they try to compete in the west and patch up the gaping hole Durant left? Do they strip this down and press the reset button and trade Westbrook?

Either way, by next summer, I believe the thought to be future dynasty will be no more as Russell Westbrook will test free agency, and hopefully take his talents to the Knicks. Hey, I can dream, right?

Don’t blame Durant though. Blame the new CBA, cheap Thunder management, and bad luck for Durant’s departure. A few defining moments over the past few years changed Oklahoma City forever. What if they hold on in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals? What if they resigned James Harden? What if Westbrook didn’t tear his MCL in the playoffs? How many rings would this group have before the age of 30?

A lot of what ifs are on the table as the KD & Russ experiment will end with 0 rings.

I can’t wait to see this as an ESPN 30 for 30 in 20 years.

See you next year Russ!