Bill Simmons on Russell Westbrook’s struggles

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook dribbles against the Denver Nuggets during the second half in the Western Conference Playoffs-First Round game four at the Pepsi Center in Denver on April 25, 2011. Denver avoided a sweep by Oklahoma City winning 104-101. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

I have been harping about Russell Westbrook’s play at the point for the last few games and it’s nice to hear that Bill Simmons is seeing the same things I am. Here is his take on the Westbrook/Durant dynamic as part of his salute to “The Wire.”

Sorry, I’m not done with Westbrook yet. Oklahoma City has enough talent to win the 2011 title — it’s sitting right there for them — but it’s going to hinge on how Westbrook runs the show. There’s a game beyond the f**king game and I don’t think he can totally see it yet. He’s learning on the fly. A crash course, if you will. I don’t trust him yet. Stephon Marbury never found that balance between scoring and creating; Allen Iverson only found it when they moved him off the ball. Can Westbrook find it on the fly? Either way, Durant’s unreal fourth quarter in Game 5 was the best reality check possible: He basically hired Brother Mouzone and Omar to shoot Stringer Westbrook. We’ll see if he comes back from the dead.

That reminds me, I thought Chuck and Kenny did a spectacular job of breaking down Westbrook’s struggles in Game 5 — he took some heat for the first time (for Game 4) and it clearly affected him, but as Kenny pointed out (I’m paraphrasing), if you want to be great, you need to learn how to handle being the hero and being the goat. That’s the final stage for a basketball player. Durant struggled earlier in the season, took some heat, questioned himself a little, and ultimately, it made him stronger. Now it’s Westbrook’s turn. To be continued.

The Thunder aren’t going to beat the Grizzlies (who are simply on a mission right now) if Westbrook doesn’t learn how to play point guard on the fly. He seemingly hasn’t learned how to exercise good shot selection or set his teammates up in three years, so it’s doubtful that he’s going to be able to learn it in three games.

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