The Oklahoma City Thunder are 3-0 and they’re probably the front-runner to represent the Western Conference in the NBA finals, but last night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies showed they’re far from invincible. They have an immense amount of talent and depth, their biggest threat comes from within.
Their team chemistry has always been questionable, mainly because their point guard Russell Westbrook is a powder keg that could explode at any moment. Last night against the Grizzlies, Westbrook shot 0-13 from the floor, finishing with only 4 points and turning the ball over four times. Not only did he have a bad game but in the second quarter he nearly lost it with his teammates.
“Westbrook's frustration appeared to have started with just 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter when he drove into the paint and kicked the ball out to Thabo Sefolosha in the corner. Sefolosha passed up a wide open 3-pointer, which prompted Westbrook to yell at Sefolosha “shoot the (expletive) ball.”
Sefolosha and other teammates, including Durant and center Kendrick Perkinsattempted to calm Westbrook down immediately during an ensuing trip to the free throw line. But the emotions spilled over to the bench one minute later.
Durant appeared to again settle Westbrook, but Westbrook appeared to take exception to how Durant delivered his message. The two began shouting at each other and had to be separated. “
It’s one thing to have a bad game, but to take out your frustrations on your teammates can be devastating.
If the Thunder had lost that game, everyone would be talking about how Westbrook needs to settle down and start playing his role. He’s not the star of that team, and he needs to learn that.
All this interior conflict could be great for the San Antonio Spurs, a team that’s always thrived on great chemistry. If the Thunder are arguing, even when they’re winning, imagine what could happen when the team finally faces some adversity. The Spurs and Thunder play each other on January 8, a date both teams have undoubtedly circled on their calendar. I’m sure the Spurs will know how to get into Westbrook’s head if these issues are still causing problems for the Thunder. Chemistry could end up being a big part of who wins the West.