There has never been anything graceful about Russell Westbrook. His game is not defined by its smoothness or its liquidity. He does not ease into anything and he hardly ever makes anything look actually easy.
Westbrook has for years not been long for the traditionalists of the world. He’s not a pure point guard by any stretch of that term and any person who desires that will, ultimately, find flaws, both real and perceived, within his game.
He has sharp edges on him and they get sharper still, the many chips on his shoulders constantly rubbing together. Of late he’s been reborn, perhaps, but only in the minds of people who never actually thought he had it like this. He’s been doing this for years now, but maybe it’s because people are finally getting to see him do it for multiple games against Paul, the very point guard who Westbrook’s playing style is most averse to.
Before the third quarter on Tuesday night I imagine Brooks just looked at Russ in the locker room and said, “Hulk, smash” and then we got one of the more destructive pieces of basketball we’ve seen some time. Westbrook is a movement, but not one crafted in some branding hashtag fueled meeting of the minds. He’s one that nature is in charge of. All that shouting? Dude is basketball Rick Flair.
The truest thing to say is the Thunder are not still alive, not in this series and not in the Memphis one, without Westbrook playing the way he’s been playing. We keep trying to bend him to our narratives and our desires. We keep wanting him to make sense. But that’s not ever going to happen. A point guard like Westbrook has not existed before and because of that, the reactions to his play from the people that can’t handle the evolution of a position will forever be visceral. It’ll get people going in their chest where their heart lives. Because Russ makes hearts get going some type of way. He makes them beat harder and with greater frequency. He wears everyone involved in the game — players on the other team, players on his team, coaches, fans — out. He makes hearts sprint because he plays with his so much. Find a player who plays harder and I’ll bring a mirror to your house, have you look in it, and show you a liar, you freaking liar.
Durant’s arms and legs are so long it always seems as if he’s only playing the game with his limbs. It’s a beautiful thing to see him glide, that feathery jumper of his dripping down through the net, warm honey water-falling out of some Rucker heaven. Westbrook isn’t as smooth as all that. He plays the game with every bit of his whole body. He rages around the court. On some layups it’s as if he’s showing off his elbows to the world. See how high I can get them?
I don’t want to talk about the controversy surrounding last game because that takes away from the unreal game Westbrook had, and that’s not cool to me. He moves like he’s rebelling against the world. He has cause, though. He just wants to win.