The NBA's incredible popularity makes it possible for fans from all corners of the Earth to share in the joy of watching some of the world's best athletes compete night in and night out, with the hope of someday seeing these players in person. Some fans eventually take the leap and make the pilgrimage, like this guy here:
It would be insulting to tell another human being what to do with their hard-earned money. You make it, you spend it as you see fit. It's just sad that he happened to pick the game where Russell Westbrook was intent on undressing the Toronto Raptors, all because they suggested a sensible strategy of constantly double-teaming him.
Russell Westbrook was informed that the Raptors plan to double-team him often tonight. He wasn't fazed. pic.twitter.com/BceMjOYxFU— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 28, 2016
It's classic Westbrook to somehow translate what is usually a sign of respect into a slight. He balked at the notion of a double-team stopping him and suggested that the Raptors should use more than half the players allowed on the court at one time to guard him. Maybe then, with 60 percent of their on-court personnel chasing him from one end of the court to the other, they could possibly have a chance at slowing him.
It's so damn arrogant. So awesome. So Westbrook. And the best part is he wasn't wrong.
That's Luis Scola and Norman Powell trying to contain Westbrook in transition. That's what failure looks like. Westbrook barely even acknowledged their attempt at a double-team before blowing through it and finishing at the rim. From the onset, he put a wrench in the plan to stop him simply by doing what he normally does.
The problem with trying to defend him with more than one player is that while it works in theory, it hardly does in practice. You can only defend what you can see, after all. Westbrook makes it a habit to never stay in front of his defenders long enough for them to think.
It's that constant aggressive style that makes Westbrook fun to watch. He goes 100 percent every minute that he's on the court, which is both his defining positive feature and the touch-point for many of his detractors' arguments. Essentially, those critics suggested that he was out of control.
But those criticisms lacked an understanding of the entire concept of control. Westbrook will never be the same type of patient player as Chris Paul, but he doesn't need to be. It was and still is asinine to try to pigeonhole him into that category.
Control of self is as diverse as the people themselves. Paul's patient and probing style of play fits his skill set and his mind because he's great at dissecting situations as they develop. Westbrook, however, is wired differently. It makes more sense for him to force those situations to develop and provoke chaos for opposing teams, because he's at his best in the middle of that disarray.
The way he embarrassed the Raptors wasn't by slowing the game down, it was by speeding it up. His defenders couldn't set themselves up long enough to do something useful.
The sequence that preceded the Raptors' Keystone Cops transition defense is a perfect illustration of this concept. Westbrook got the rebound and turned it into an instant one-man fast break, which few players can even dream of doing. That tactic works because he's in the Raptors' faces just as they're turning around to sprint back. At that point, they're already in desperation mode, and that's no good against a sprinting Russell Westbrook.
This foot-on-the-gas style extends to his passes as well. It only takes him a few touches of the ball after passing half-court to hit a teammate in stride. That quick release disorientates the defense, yet the more he pulls those plays off, the more opportunities he ultimately creates for himself. You can thank human failures like fatigue and the inattention to detail that results from constant mental pressure.
Westbrook creates anxiety in defenses, which makes it easier for his teammates to get open looks as well. Unfortunately for opposing teams, one of the teammates is Kevin Durant, a player whose own strengths perfectly complement Westbrook's pedal-to-the-metal style. As Westbrook keeps the defense staggering and afraid, Durant feasts on the space afforded him to hit every possible shot.
They become even scarier when Durant can also impose his will and create for a moving Westbrook. That is downright sinister.
Watching Westbrook perform at the peak of his powers is like watching a great quarterback at the heart of a no-huddle offense. He attacks and picks his opponents apart before they can get their defensive signals or communicate the situation properly to help their defense. But Westbrook isn't just doing it during two-minute drills. He's doing it all the time, and he'll keep doing it long after the opponents and his own teammates are spent.
It's a tactic that compromises defenses just as much as incredible three-point shooting or rugged interior play. When Westbrook does his thing well, as he did against the Raptors and most teams he has faced this season, he tests the limits of human discipline, endurance and attention. And unfortunately for future opponents and fans flying hundreds of miles to watch their teams play the Oklahoma City Thunder, he's only getting better at maximizing this effect.
It's been spectacular to watch Westbrook's style grow over the years. Rather than trying to force Westbrook to become a different type of player in order to fit a stereotypical point guard mold, the Thunder have embraced his hyper-speed approach. They understood that letting him loose allows them to work within the panic that he causes.
Because of the fear that he provokes, trying to defend him with however many players is only feasible on the whiteboard. It's an example of everyone having a plan until they're punched in the mouth. Fear kills strategy.
When Westbrook is barreling towards players who haven't even had a chance to set their feet, let alone initiate a double-team, the initial game plan goes out of the window and is replaced by a sense of desperation. A state that many tasked with defending Westbrook now know well.
* * *
This Westbrook shot from Saturday is so bonkers the NBA should count it