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Sounds of Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Calling on the MVP

For this team to live up to its potential, Westbrook has to play his game.

No one can stay in front of Russell Westbrook.
Mark D Smith

Gems may come from the mouths of babes, but wisdom comes from experience. Raymond Felton was that voice of wisdom on media day.

Felton’s words reflected those of the Big O’s himself:

“Keep on doin’ it.”

Contrary to what some may say, what Russell Westbrook accomplished last season was no fluke. Averaging a triple-double for a season requires maintaining a level of excellence reserved for a select few. Otherwise, Robertson’s record would have fallen years ago.

Throughout his career, Westbrook has maintained a consistent mantra when asked why he plays the way he does, “I just do what I have to do to help my team win.”

Oscar Robertson said those exact words about himself in his sit-down with Westbrook. Last season was no different. In order for a team that was first cousin to a total rebuild to win, Westbrook had to keep recording triple-doubles. So he did.

Those last three words seem so cavalier but they are totally accurate. When Westbrook recorded his 42 triple-doubles, the team went 33 and 9, when he didn’t put up the trifecta, the team went 13 and 25. The team needed his triple-double to win, so that is what he did.

Thankfully, this recharged Thunder line-up won’t require a triple-double from Westbrook every night, but as Raymond Felton pointed out, the team still needs him to stay as aggressive as he was last season.

In particular.....

....continuing to blast through opponent’s perimeter defense. Once Westbrook compromises the perimeter, opponents must adjust or give up a lay-up and those adjustments open seams, gaps and create space that players like Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams can exploit.

Watch what happens when Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson breaks through the Jazz perimeter defense:

The rookie immediately draws all 5 defenders toward the basket:

The Jazz are well schooled defensively and help arrives in time:

As the perimeter defense continues to implode, Ferguson recognizes the double-team coming and fires the ball to the corner:

Alex Abrines sees 6’10” Derrick Favors coming to contest his shot so he swings it to a wide open Carmelo Anthony who easily knocks down the wide open trey. If a rookie can draw that much defensive attention and create that much space, think of the five-alarm panic the reigning MVP demands.

Westbrook made the Jazz’s job too easy when he would pass the ball with only Ricky Rubio in front of him. That should have been a match-up that the Thunder feasted on all night long but for the sake of building “chemistry” Westbrook was over compensating.

Raymond Felton said it before the season began, Russell shouldn’t change. Not just because he has been here the longest, but primarily because he is the best player on the court.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder-Media Day Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The debate can rage all season about who is number two, but Westbrook is number one. Period. The only difference between this year and last year is Russ not having to beat that double-team at the rim because he lacked reliable shooters to pass to.

Not taking a thing away from Paul George and Carmelo. They are great players with fabulous skill, but they aren’t Russell. He is unique, a once in a half-century phenomenon and their dream of winning a championship will come much closer if they adjust their game and join Raymond Felton encouraging Russell.... to be Russell.