MVP award is nice, but Russell Westbrook really wants a championship
LOS ANGELES, USA - Russell Westbrook, a singular force of nature in his historic 2016-17 campaign, now must find a way to thrive as a part of the re-balanced ecosystem of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Stung by a Western Conference finals exit in June of 2016 - quickly followed by teammate Kevin Durant's defection to the team that ousted the Thunder, the Golden State Warriors - Oklahoma City point guard Westbrook responded with a season for the ages.
He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists, joining Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double over an entire season.
With 42 triple-doubles, he broke Robertson's 55-year-old season record in a display of remarkable all-around excellence, the pinnacle achievement that double-digit totals in 3 of 5 key statistical categories has come to represent.
The six-time all-star won his second scoring crown and scored 40 or more points in 18 games on his way to NBA Most Valuable Player honors.
Despite the gaudy individual numbers, the Thunder finished sixth in the Western Conference standings and were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by his MVP rival, James Harden, and the Houston Rockets.
This season, Westbrook and the revamped Thunder are hoping things will be different with the addition of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
The arrival of George from the Indiana Pacers and Anthony from the New York Knicks means they and Westbrook will be able to share the offensive load.
But it also means players accustomed to having the ball in clutch moments will have some adjusting to do.
"It's going to take time," Westbrook said. "It's not going to happen overnight. It's something you constantly have to keep working at.
"It's going to be a season-long process."
Westbrook's relentless style has been an eye-opener for his new teammates.
"(Westbrook has) got speed that you can't scout for, that you can't plan for," George said. "It's a definite luxury to have a guy (like that) on the floor with you. He's going to create so much stuff for me and Carmelo.
"We joke about it how to run a fast break with him because he's so fast," George added. "By the time you catch it, your feet are all messed up trying to catch up to him."
Added Anthony: "We want to play fast, we want to play quick, but I think with Russ you almost have to play quick. If he passes it to you and you're open and you don't shoot it, he'll get mad at you."
Thunder coach Billy Donovan isn't worried about how his 3 key players will gel.
"The thing that's great about those guys is they are open minded about different ideas or suggestions or trying different things," he said. "I think the more that they play together the more they'll get comfortable in working with one another." – Rappler.com