All along, Scott Brooks has told us there’s a plan in place for Russell Westbrook.
OK, but Brooks didn’t say he was going to stick to it.
Brooks said Westbrook won’t play both ends of back-to-back games and also said Westbrook will be limited to no more than 30 minutes, then said no more than 32 minutes.
Must have been the craziness of the regular season that got to Brooks Tuesday night in Dallas, because Brooks changed his mind and ignored the minutes restriction that was supposedly limiting Westbrook, but didn’t play Westbrook when he needed to, only when he felt like he had to. The result was an overtime loss to the Mavericks, the second time the Thunder have lost to Dallas in the last nine days.
Tied at the end of regulation, Westbrook didn’t start the overtime, suggesting he wouldn’t play past the allotted 30 minutes he has been given. But when the Thunder fell behind, Westbrook came into the game it looked like Brooks panicked. By the time Westbrook checked in, the Mavericks were up by seven points and there was just more than 2 minutes to play.
But whether Brooks went back on his word or Westbrook got out past his curfew is not the real problem. The issue with the Thunder, with Westbrook and with the rest of the season has to do with rust.
Oklahoma City just isn’t as good when Westbrook doesn’t play, and when Westbrook does play, he needs time to adjust and assimilate.
Tuesday was the perfect example.
Westbrook was too fast, played like he had a plane to catch and didn’t look sharp, particularly at the beginning of the game. He had five turnovers in the first quarter. By the time he got himself under control, Westbrook was nearing the 30-minute time restriction Brooks has for him.
If Westbrook is healthy, and Brooks and the Thunder organization have said he is, the best thing the team can do is play him. The more he sits, the more time it takes to get him back into the comfort flow of the game. Tuesday showed that. Westbrook started choppy and finished with 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting with eight turnovers and eight assists.
Meanwhile, the Thunder will already be working the injured Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins back into the lineup toward the regular season. There’s no reason to add another variable, or perhaps complication to what will already be a lot of moving parts.
However, if Westbrook is hurt, despite the fact the Thunder say he isn’t, then rest him. Forget about putting some minutes restriction on him that clearly isn’t a priority. Sit him. Wait it out. Make sure Westbrook is healthy before the playoffs start.
Instead, OKC and Brooks have tried to do both and Tuesday in Dallas and it looked silly. Not only did Westbrook look out of sorts, he busted his restriction, making Brooks look like he panicked.