Well………you know how you see your ex for the first time after a bad breakup? That’s basically what happened last night in Oakland. The pilot of the KD/Westbrook soap opera aired last night and with three more episodes to go, it looks like it’s about to be more drama than Love and Hip Hop.
Let’s examine this from both sides. I liked what I saw from KD. I wondered how he was going to respond. It probably helped that it was a home game. Being in friendly territory always helps calm you down. I don’t know what his mindset is towards the whole situation. He seems like a pretty standoff-ish and non-confrontational type of guy but last night he embraced confrontation. While none of it was primarily directed at Westbrook, he showed that there was no intention to be friendly with his former teammates in general. My only qualm about this is it doesn’t seem natural. Playing an 82 game season is stressful. Playing an 82 game season while facing the vitriol and hatred of 29 NBA teams and their fanbases is even worse. Do you really want to face all of that while simultaneously trying to portray some villainous character? The mental and physical fatigue is bound to take it’s toll. And unless the Warriors plan to go 77-0 for the rest of the season, the criticism is going to grow with every loss and misstep. My advice to KD is to just do what you do on the court and leave the extra-cirricular stuff alone. He should just get his message across on the court like he did in the 2nd quarter last night.
Now on to Westbrook. He pretty much operated as I expected. I knew there would be no pre-game hugs or handshakes. He was all business from jump. Westbrook seems to dislike everyone he plays against so I’m pretty sure he didn’t have to muster up any feelings of discourse for this game. They seem to be there regardless. As the game went on I think that he was getting frustrated. OKC started fast and got out to an early lead but they began to struggle and KD started to heat up. Westbrook was on the bench for much of the melee which I’m sure he didn’t approve of. In the postgame interviews, he was candid as always but he did make sure that he pointed out he didn’t take too kindly to the Warriors trash talking. I have no doubt that he has January 18th highlighted, circled, underlined and everything else. As the leader of the team, I think Russ underestimated how the other guys would respond to that type of volatile and high energy game at this point in the season. I’m sure it was business as usual to him but he is a veteran with a lot of experience. That was a playoff atmosphere. A lot of the guys on that roster don’t know what that feels like. They seemed overwhelmed. The fact that he didn’t have a great game may have discouraged them as well. Let’s be honest, Russ is the only player on that team good enough to do damage against Golden State. If he struggles, they will have a hard time beating them.
So I think a couple of things happened last night, 1. KD sorta moved on from the whole “leaving OKC” situation. I think there was some liberation in beating them. Also, I think before he really didn’t know how his former teammates felt about him leaving. I believe by them responding unfavorably to him it delivered some type of closure. He knows who they feel, he can process it and move on. 2. OKC grew up a little bit. They were undefeated up until that point and this was their first real taste of adversity this season. This is going to help them going forward and I expect a totally different series of events the next time these two teams play. They may not win but its going to be a much more competitive game.