Driving back from San Antonio after Game 4 in San Antonio two weeks, we heard a local sports-talk segment in which one of the regulars asserted two things had to happen if the Thunder didn’t emerge from a 2-0 series hole:
1) Oklahoma City would need to seriously consider a coaching change.
2) The Thunder would need to make James Harden its point guard.
Five straight victories later, the Thunder leads the Heat 1-0 in the NBA Finals, so let’s presume Scott Brooks’ job is safe. But there’s still unrest in some corners with Russell Westbrook’s playmaking and ball security. The guy is two rebounds shy of a triple-double in Game 1, and somehow it’s still not good enough.
Question: If Westbrook is so ill-suited for the position, why is Miami game-planning for him? Heat coach Erik Spoelstra basically admitted to doing so in his pregame press conference Thursday, calling Westbrook “a relentless assault that just keeps on coming.”
Spoelstra attributed Westbrook’s post-season reduction in turnovers to the “evolution of great players. And in the the moment of great competition, they evolve.
“He’s such an aggressive, attacking player. I think even when he makes mistakes at times that they live with it because he creates so much on those assaults to the rim. So our job tonight will be to try to get him out of his comfort level as much as possible while we respect that speed.”
Spoelstra said Westbrook’s speed compares with what the Heat faced in the Eastern Conference Finals from Boston’s Rajon Rondo.
“Both of them are equally challenging in a different way,” Spoelstra said. “Rondo is such a brilliant basketball maestro, reads a game, and as soon as you turn your head and make one mistake, he makes you pay for it.”
With Westbrook, “if you’re not back ahead of the play, body in front of it, and that has to be multiple bodies in front of it, he’ll make you pay,” Spoelstra said. “And that relentlessness is probably part of his greatness.”