Russell Westbrook re-signing with the Oklahoma CityThunder in the wake of Durant’s departure is old news. Where his former teammate is dealing with the negative PR and likely working on his fit with the stacked Warriors squad, Westbrook is working his ass off to place the Thunder fully on his shoulders.
Even though Westbrook is going to be getting a fat pay-check increase, his decision to stay with the Thunder goes beyond money.
Here are the factors that are set to drive Westbook’s to the NBA MVP honor in 2017.
- Coach Billy Donovan
I’m not saying this because I’m a University of Florida graduate or even because the Gators are always competitive, if not dominant, in every athletics program they have. Billy Donovan has been the figurehead for the men’s basketball team for 19 years, last year being his inaugural season in the NBA as a coach. In his first year he brought the Thunder within one game of the NBA Finals, almost shutting out a team that set the record for season wins. Donovan is known for bringing the most out of his players individually and knows not to put the entire future of his team in one player. There isn’t going to be a post-franchise-player lull at the Thunder, they will move on past Durant. With Westbrook’s help, they are already back in the running for the Western Conference title.
Billy Donovan clinic notes on “Player Development – The Florida Gators Way” https://t.co/zQ8YJaLoqD
— PickandPop (@PickAndPopNet) August 21, 2016
- Michael Jordan’s Blessing
The greats respect integrity. Too many of the NBA’s greatest players jumped ship when their team needed them the most (Lebron James, Kevin Durant), and for Westbrook to reverse that trend gives him all the glory. Even the almighty Michael Jordan came out to say that Westbrook reminds him of a younger version of him.
“Thirty years ago, that’s me. The attitude, trying to prove myself, showing so much passion for the game of basketball,” Jordan said.
“You see it in his play. You can tell he loves the game, he plays with energy and flair.”
Westbrook was shocked by the comments.
“That’s crazy. I really don’t know what to say,” Westbrook responded.
“To have the best player who ever played the game to say that about you as a player and as a person is something that is going to keep me striving.”
— Nico_Thunder⚡ (@nico_vi_99) August 19, 2016
- The Thunder are endearing
People now view the NBA as the party that got the short end of the stick in an awful breakup. Seeing the Thunder get so far as an underdog to the reigning champions won the hearts of NBA fans across the country. Analysts everywhere know better than to rub salt in the wounds and start criticizing the Thunder with the same sort of intensity LeBron used to get, and that the Warriors are probably going to get. Imagine the sort of favorable press the Thunder and Russell Westbrook will receive if they explode out of the gates and start looking like a championship team without Durant. It’s only going to take one win against the Warriors for the Thunder to show that they are here to stay.
- No More Sitting Shotgun
Watching Kevin Durant leave the Thunder for the very same team that they fought against a month later drew a strict separation between Kevin Durant fans and Thunder fans. With so much focus on Kevin Durant, people often overlooked how truly amazing of a player Russell Westbrook is. He plays like a superhero, has Olympian track level athletics, and uses maximum force to set the pace for the entire team. His top speed when driving to the basket is 21.6 mph, making him the fastest player in the NBA. It’s time for Westbrook to finally shine.
- The Thunder are Young
Russell Westbrook is 27 years old. He’s hardly even in the peak of his athletic career and still has much more left in the tank. The Thunder also recently acquired Victor Oladipo, the No.2 pick of the 2013 draft, who is 24. Steven Adams, the big man from New Zealand, is 23. A young team like this with an experienced coach like Billy Donovan is going to be a lethal combination.
It’s clear Westbrook doesn’t want to just sit on his pay increase and let the Warriors run wild. Winning is in his blood and personality. You can tell he is the type of player that watching other teams finish off the Finals from his couch is something that gets under his skin.
“ The most important part for me is winning. If I’m the go-to guy or not, my job is to find ways to win,” he said.
“I love being around my teammates, I love hanging around these guys, I love going to war with them.”
Full speed ahead, Russ.