The Oklahoma City Thunder had no problems dismantling the Milwaukee Bucks last night 110-91 behind a near triple-double performance by Russell Westbrook with 12 points, ten rebounds, and nine assists. Of course, those numbers have become commonplace for Russ. We sort of expect it from him, much in the same way that we expected a lot out of boxing legend Mike Tyson.
After the game, Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, a former superstar point guard himself, drew the comparison between Russ and Tyson, each great in their respective sports.
“He is the [Mike] Tyson of basketball,” said Kidd. “When the jump ball [goes up], he is coming as Tyson did off the stool. When the bell rings, he’s coming for you. Whenever he’s on the floor, he plays at one speed, and that’s fast and hard. He’s a little different in that case that he’s probably the only one, and then I would put 1B in that same category, John Wall. Just that speed of coming at you every time you’re on the floor. There is no kind of walking the ball up; they are coming at you and causing problems.”
Kidd also commended Westbrook’s adjustment so far to the offseason additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. It takes a lot of sacrifices to go from being the only player on the team to having two other stars on the court with you, and thus far, they have all managed well.
“He’s the best in the game,” continued Kidd. “Puts a lot of pressure on your defense, offensively and defensively. For him, he can make the adjustment, play with talented guys like George and Melo. For him, his game doesn’t change. He puts a lot of pressure offensively on that break, just finding the open guy and making the game easy.”
But, Russ has had to adjust the most, and you can see it in his numbers. While he’s still nearly averaging a triple-double, his points per game have dropped significantly, from 31.6 last season to 19.6 through the Thunder’s first seven games this season. Sure, it’s only been seven games, but it says a lot. The triple-doubles are still there (three out of seven). The points are not.
Russ has scored 25 or more points in only three games this season, and two of those were losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves. George, on the other hand, is only down four points compared to last season. Carmelo is actually up by a little less than a point.
While it’s too early to draw causality between anything above, it is an interesting stat to follow. One thing’s for sure though; the Thunder have the talent to compete in the West with three stars at their disposal. Kidd even drew the comparison between this season’s Thunder team and the Miami Heat teams of a few seasons back with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.
“With Oklahoma City, they kind of remind you of the older Miami teams,” said Kidd. “Where live ball turnovers turn into dunks or 3s. So just talking to the guys, we got to be able to take care of the ball and get good shots. But if there are turnovers, understanding Russ is coming, no matter what. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
The Thunder haven’t played the Golden State Warriors yet, but a matchup between those two squads will give a good picture of how the Western Conference might shape up this season. Of course, when Kawhi Leonard gets back, we might have another variable in the equation.