The way the world turned on Russell Westbrook in the postseason was almost shocking. Actually, not “almost.” It was completely, entirely stunning. And dumb.
A player that during the regular season almost everyone agreed was maybe the real MVP of a 55-win division champion went from a blossoming superstar into a target that mediatypes zeroed in on. After the Thunder’s exit in the Western Conference Finals to the Mavericks, there were actually debates and discussion that — and I still can’t believe this — asked, “Should the Thunder trade Russell Westbrook?”
Yeah, trade a 22-year-old point guard that made the All-Star team and was named second-team All-NBA in his third season and is maybe just now starting to realize his potential. Yeah, trade the point guard that finished the season averaging 21.9 points and 8.2 assists per game with a PER of 23.6, which was eighth in the league and better than the MVP Derrick Rose. Yeah, trade the point guard that’s part of Sam Presti’s overall long-term plan that helped push one of the league’s youngest rosters to the Western Finals, averaging 24 points, six assists and five rebounds a game.
Yeah, trade that guy.
Regardless, somehow a manufactured trade rumor surfaced that Westbrook for Chris Paul had potential. In reality, this deal was never anything more than pure speculation on the part of overreactive media members and emotional fans having a party with the Trade Machine, but it gained enough traction for Hornets general manager Dell Demps to address. From the Times-Picayune:
“Sam Presti and I, our offices used to be right next to each other, so we still text each other all the time, and I can assure you that has not been a conversation we’ve had,” Demps said, reportedly cracking a smile.
And if you asked Sam Presti, he probably wouldn’t even answer you about this fabricated rumor. (Actually knowing Sam Presti he’d be incredibly vague and say something like, “We always looking at options to improve and enhance our roster, but I’m not going to comment publicly about any discussions we’ve had with other teams. But Russell is definitely part of our long-term plans.” Which is Presti saying, “No, you idiot.)
The fact this is even a story to the point Demps was asked about it is incredible. You can’t slow down the monster that was created by people bashing Westbrook during the playoffs and it’s gotten to the point where actual GMs are being quizzed. Oklahoma City isn’t trading Russell Westbrook. He’s almost assuredly getting an extension with the Thunder July — likely for near the league maximum — and is a key part of the Thunder’s blueprint to build a winner.
Someday, the basketball world (which includes some right here in OKC) will realize how special Westbrook is. Is he a true point guard? No. Does he need to be? Heck no. He is what he is: an out-of-this-world guard who averaged 24 points, five rebounds and six assists in the playoffs.
And he’s not going anywhere.
Even if Kevin Durant is unhappy with his relationship with Westbrook, Presti isn’t the type to overreact. These guys are young. They’re growing together, experiencing things for the first time as a group. There were some tough moments in the playoffs. And if it came to Durant being ruffled about Westbrook, Presti isn’t going to just give up right there. First, Westbrook’s way, way too good and secondly, Presti understands these guys are young and still in a lot of ways, immature. There’s a lot of time to move past any kind of chemistry hiccup.
Again, 22 years old. Twenty-two. Westbrook wants to be in OKC. The team wants him in OKC and its about to prove it by ponying up the dollars. Everyone loves a good swap and trade rumors are fun. But if the Hornets are looking to deal Paul for someone before he becomes a free agent in 2012, Demps need not call Presti. Because there’s nothing to talk about.