Face it, when was the last time — only time, maybe — that a man scored 54 points and didn’t come away with praise? If no one can find a last time, let’s try a first time, which occurred earlier this week.
For Westbrook’s career-high 54 points came on an unconscionable 43 shots. It’s like rushing for 100 yards on 36 carries. The larger number doesn’t reflect the quality of the day’s work, a point that Kobe must know better than most.
Yet troubled by the public’s criticism of Westbrook, Kobe went on the offensive. He tweeted: Ppl will always find a way to critique Only way to shut up critics is to WIN That's the challenge myself and Mj accepted #CantcritiqueRings
Kobe made a good point here: Critics do favor wins over flashy numbers, and Westbrook would have drawn little criticism, if any criticism, had the Thunder won.
NBA coaches have often rode a star’s ups and downs to victory, because they believe even a star’s mediocre work is better than the best work of the lesser players who surround him. And, absent the injured Kevin Durant, Westbrook has nothing but lesser players on the floor with him.
Still, the best shot isn’t always the one a star takes. It could be the deft pass to an open Enes Kanter inside or a skip-pass to Reggie Jackson or Dion Walters on the wing. For that’s what you expect a point guard to do. You don’t expect him to take every shot his team takes, and when he does, critics come with the shots.
That explains the frustration, if not outrage, Thunder fans must feel. Had Westbrook shot the lights out — 21 of 43 isn’t that sort of performance — he might have put the Thunder in a position to win a game which the team needed to win.
“I don’t really give a damn what nobody think, to tell you the truth,” Westbrook told an Oklahoma City sportswriter after his high-volume night of shooting. “I really don’t care. Every night I go out and compete harder than anyone else in this league. I’m proud of (that) and my teammates don’t have a problem with it. I’m good with that.”
Westbrook and the Thunder limped to the end of the season, missing a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Even if had they gotten to the postseason, to stay there for more than one round they would have needed to play as a team — and not a one-man team, either.
Yet the team thing is lost on Kobe, and probably because his statistical numbers mean more than winning. His Lakers — and they are his, not coach Byron Scott’s — are within a light-year of a postseason spot, and Kobe is playing for numbers, the ones that will inch him up the all-time scoring list.
He, too, has been prone to shoot first and never pass, which explains why Kobe sided with Westbrook and not with critics.
What ALL TIME Great went 19 for 43 in a game 3 nba finals loss? #lookItup #onlyringsmatter #byAnyMeans, Kobe tweeted.
The answer is Michael Jordan, and the key word in Kobe’s tweet was this one: “loss.”
Westbrook did score 54, but he might as well have scored 14. What good did his 54 do, Kobe?
Look at this possible answer: Perhaps push the Thunder out of the playoffs. That thought is what brought the critics. They’ll remain critics until Westbrook, a point guard whose selfishness causes the offense to stagnate, learns to share the ball.
At least once in a while …
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