Russell Westbrook has started the season averaging below 20 points per game for the first time in four seasons. Since the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s amazing team makeover during the 2010-11 NBA season, Westbrook has averaged at least 21.9 points a night.
We all know that he was injured in last year’s playoffs after a collision at the knee tore his meniscus. Scheduled to be out until December of this year, Westbrook made a surprisingly early return to the Thunder’s lineup after missing just two games this season.
Many people are now questioning if Westbrook actually came back too early, costing his team here early on. While there’s no doubt that the Thunder do need his presence to go deep into the playoffs maybe it would have been better if players like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb were getting those minutes that were available while Westbrook was out.
After a poor performance from virtually every bench player in last night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, it may appear that those players may have needed a little more time to get used to their new roles. I think that Jackson has had the proper amount of time for a positive learning curve as he’s been a bit more consistent than most of the reserves.
I’m not blaming Westbrook’s return for the lack of constant production from certain players, but we all know how important it is to get minutes even if you’re not playing so well at the time. Nothing serves as a better teacher than experience. Even through the struggles, the Thunder sit at 5-2 heading into their second big road game of the week against the Golden State Warriors tonight. Westbrook has the chance to prove he’s still the same explosive and elite player he’s been over the past few years. His matchup with Stephen Curry could end very bad if the Thunder don’t bring their best stuff tonight. Let’s hope Westbrook’s recent slump is more about rust than it actually being something mental or physical.