Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook Deserves More Respect

+Read full article
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Since he burst onto the scene, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, has proven to be one of the best young players in the NBA. While most players would normally receive high praise, Westbrook has constantly been under fire. More and more people seem to be complaining about Westbrook’s game than they ever have before. Aside from his dominating ability to score buckets, no one ever gives Westbrook any credit in any other areas of his game. People love to downplay Westbrook’s shot selection, complaining that he takes far more ill-advised shots than any other player in the NBA, something that I think is far from the truth. Every player is forced into bad shots, especially early in their career.

Instead of the public understanding that Westbrook is still growing and expanding his game, they instead point the finger in his direction. Westbrook has taken the blame for most of the Thunder’s problems since he has been the starting point guard. How could a player who’s averaged over 19.9 points, 6.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game in his career, be constantly criticized in the public eye? It just doesn’t make sense to me, and it never will.

I haven’t seen a player under so much scrutiny since guards like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant. Even then, those players still had plenty of supporters throughout the sports world. This just isn’t the case for Westbrook. He seems to be on an island by himself. I have just enough fingers on both hands to name the people who openly support Westbrook, and most of those people are players, or coaches within the Thunder’s organization. Westbrook has never been a selfish player and his numbers prove it. I think people just don’t like his attitude. In fact, I think Kevin Durant should take little more flack for passing up on open shots and not driving to the hoop when he has the opportunity. Westbrook has played the role as team scapegoat for far too long and it’s about time it came to an end. Westbrook is coming off his best season yet, where he averaged 23.6 points, 7.4 assist and 5.2 rebounds per game. Fans of any team would kill for that production from the point-guard position, but they’d have a hard time admitting it.

Time and time again, Westbrook has proven that he is the right man to play Robin to Durant’s Batman. I think it’s become more about jealousy than it ever was about Westbrook’s ability. We’re slowly finding out that he may be in fact one of the NBA’s most-hated players rather than someone who’s costing his team games. If you aren’t in support of Westbrook, you better get used to him, because he signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension during the 2011-12 season. Westbrook’s role on the Thunder is just as important as Durant’s. Not many people may agree with me there, but I’ve watched more than enough Thunder games to separate fact from fiction. I’ve personally witnessed Westbrook pull Durant out of tough spots after coming through with plenty of very strong performances. Although, Durant might be the key to their success, but Westbrook is the lock.

The fiery guard will continue to pump fear into the heart of opposing defenders for years to come, and whether you like it or not, he’s in Oklahoma for the long run. While he’s out until December of this year, everyone will be reminded of just how important Westbrook is to his team. The Thunder got bounced from the playoffs in the second-round last year after Westbrook went down with a knee injury. They just weren’t able to duplicate his production. Thunder fans are extremely anxious for their star’s return, but I’m sure that fans everywhere feel otherwise.

Brian Anderson is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAnderson035 “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

Related: Will Kevin Durant Leave The Oklahoma City Thunder?