Russell Westbrook showed up for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s nationally televised Thursday night matchup with the Washington Wizards ready for war. Or, at least, looking like he’d already been through one:
Genuinely concerned that Russell Westbrook may have gotten attacked by a small bear pic.twitter.com/JCIlfiM0A7
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) January 26, 2018
Tonight's Westbrook look: T-1000 a second after taking a shotgun blast to the chest pic.twitter.com/OMz6KzF3Pl
— Samer (@Samer) January 26, 2018
Once the game tipped off, Russ promptly set about ensuring that the Wiz matched his wardrobe, tearing Washington to shreds with relentless attacking, ruthless effectiveness and no small amount of panache:
Westbrook leveled the Wizards, pouring in a season-high 46 points — many of them very loud — in 37 minutes of work to lead the Thunder to a 121-112 win. OKC’s now won six straight, and has gone 14-6 in their last 20 games. Since the start of December, they’re 15-0 when they have their full starting lineup available; since Dec. 15, only the Golden State Warriors have outscored opponents by more points per 100 possessions than Billy Donovan’s Thunder, who now sit 1 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for fourth place in the West.
Oklahoma City’s rolling right now, and Westbrook kept things in motion with murderous efficiency on Thursday, making 19 of his 29 field-goal attempts, scoring 21 in the fourth quarter alone, and adding six rebounds and six assists for good measure. It was an effort befitting the reigning MVP and newly minted member of Team LeBron for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game … which, as it turns out, might have had something to do with the performance.
See, when the rosters for next month’s All-Star Game were revealed on Thursday night, Westbrook’s name showed up down at the bottom of the list of names on LeBron James’ squad …
— NBA (@NBA) January 26, 2018
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 26, 2018
… beneath, as luck would have it, Wizards point guard John Wall, whom he roundly trashed on Thursday night. Russ, it seems, noticed. From Royce Young of ESPN.com:
Russell Westbrook asked his thoughts about being picked on LeBron’s team, thought he was the last pick. Informed it was just an alphabetical list, he made sure to correct Melo who was heckling nearby. pic.twitter.com/gPMgPr91Kz
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 26, 2018
Asked his thoughts about being selected by James, Westbrook started with a standard answer.
“That’s cool, man, that’s good, man, they finally got the teams figured out,” he said. Then from his nearby locker, Carmelo Anthony yelled out, “Tell ’em how you really feel!”
Westbrook smiled and laughed.
“But I see I was the last pick on the list — I was just trying to figure out how …” Westbrook said […]
Informed it was just in alphabetical order, an incredulous Westbrook yelled back at Anthony, “See, I told you, man! Alphabetical order, man! Of course I was first!”
Russell Westbrook thinking he was the last pick in the All-Star draft and responding by dropping 46 on the Wizards is the most Russell Westbrook thing ever.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) January 26, 2018
Westbrook’s fond of saying that he doesn’t need to draw extra motivation from perceived slights or personal grudges. “I only know how to play one way,” he told Lee Jenkins for a 2016 Sports Illustrated feature. “There’s nothing extra. I don’t need it. I already have it.” You might remember this SI takeout better for something else revealed within: that the July 4, 2016, photo of a display of cupcakes that Westbrook posted on Instagram was a subliminal shot at Kevin Durant, who had just absconded from OKC to join the Golden State Warriors (“‘The team that just beat us,’ Westbrook muttered over dominoes”), in reference to former teammate Kendrick Perkins’ penchant for calling players “‘cupcake’ if he thought they were acting a little soft.” This would not be Westbrook’s last display of potential pettiness, on this matter or others.
Whatever he might say, and however high his motor might rev naturally, Westbrook has always seemed to go even faster and harder when fueled by fury. And if its source might not necessarily have a strong basis in facts, well, for the Thunder, the ends justify those means. Needling Russ about being the All-Star draft’s last pick, then, might be the most wonderful assist Melo logs this year … and a reason the Wizards might find themselves on the side of those who think the NBA should just televise the draft next time around.
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