I recently posted an article exploring Westbrook’s early struggles, eventually coming to the conclusion that less minutes early in the season will benefit him and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the long run. After a strong performance tonight in a win against the New Orleans Pelicans (25 points, four steals and four rebounds — shooting 50 percent from the field), I’m not so sure if Westbrook needs that extended rest I mentioned in the article above.
Westbrook has always been a bit of streaky shooter, but he makes you forget that sometimes, especially when he puts up those 30-40 point games we’ve all seen before. I’m not totally taking a 180 degree turn on my opinion about reducing his minutes.; I still believe that it’d be beneficial no matter how many great games he has early on. He’ll have to put together a month’s worth of high-level play for me to believe that he’s back to his dominant ways. The most important thing is that his speed and agility are still there. It’s clearly more of a mental battle and a test of endurance.
The NBA season is similar to 12-round boxing match. You preserve your hardest blows for later on in the bout when you really need them. You’ll get knocked around a bit, but great fighters always come back swinging harder than ever. The Thunder are still figuring out how to counter some of the punches that are still stinging from last season — blows like the injury to Westbrook in the playoffs and the loss of Kevin Martin. For the most part, they have done their best to stay off of the canvas. Westbrook has been a key factor in the team’s success at 14-4. He’s managed to have more ups than downs while making a few plays that will last a lifetime, the best being an insanely good buzzer-beater that buried the Golden State Warriors.