While the Dallas Mavericks are the defending champions, it’s clear as the regular season winds down that the road to the Finals goes through Oklahoma City out West. While the Thunder have some flaws, like every other team, they also have a trio of players (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden) that is as good as any other teams “big three.” Not to mention Oklahoma City also has Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Serge Ibaka, protecting the rim. There are a lot of things to like about the Thunder. However, one of the bigger questions surrounding the Thunder is Russell Westbrook. Even though he has improved his offense dramatically and become one of the tougher guards in the NBA, he also has a propensity to fire up ill-advised shots and his assist numbers are way down from where they had been the two previous seasons.
When Westbrook is right, Oklahoma City is incredibly difficult to beat so it seems like Oklahoma City’s All-Star point guard will either be the key to their Finals run or the player that stands in their way.
Russell Westbrook joined The Dan Patrick Show to talk about an open shot being harder for him to hit than a contested one, who he thinks the NBA’s MVP is, whether he thinks people are still intimidated by the Heat, who he thinks the best team in the East is, whether he thinks Oklahoma City is the best team in the West, and what he thinks about Dwyane Wade’s comments about getting paid to play in the Olympics.
If an open shot is harder for him to make than a contested one:
“I believe so. (Host: Why?) I don’t know. Maybe because it is open and you can take your time more. When somebody is guarding you it’s more rhythm.”
Who he thinks is the NBA’s MVP:
“I would have to go with Kevin. Kevin’s been consistent all season, he’s shooting at a very high percentage, and we’re at the top of the West. Not too much more you can ask for.”
Whether he thinks people are still intimidated by the Miami Heat:
“Nah. I don’t think so. (Host: Were they ever?) I don’t think people were intimidated; people probably just couldn’t wait to play them. (Host: I would think with those Big Three and certainly LeBron and Wade playing would make some guys nervous.) I don’t know. Maybe certain teams.”
Who he thinks the best team in the East is:
“Um, the best team in the East? I don’t know. I would have to say Chicago and Miami, they’re close. When they’re both healthy they’re tough to reckon with. They have both been bruised up a little bit so it’s tough to say.”
Who he would rather see come out of the Eastern Conference:
“Honestly with me it doesn’t matter. I think our team has a good position right now in the West to be able to play against anybody.”
Whether the Thunder are the best team in the West:
“We’re going to have to find out. I guess at the end of the year we will find out. (Host: You have to have an opinion about this!) I have a personal opinion about our team and I think we definitely rank ourselves with the top tier teams but like I said to find out who the best team is you have to see at the end of the year.”
What he thinks about Dwyane Wade’s comments about wanting to get paid to play in the Olympics:
“To play with the Olympic Team is definitely an honor. To be able to represent your country and things like that. I’m just happy to have my name on the list. (Host: You don’t need to be compensated?) I’m just happy to be able to represent my country, represent my family and friends and have an opportunity to go win the gold medal.”
Listen to Russell Westbrook on The Dan Patrick Show here (Audio begins 21:15 into the podcast)