Jeremy Lin And Russell Westbrook: One And The Same
Odds are Russell Westbrook is the guy who came to mind. Since the 2011 NBA playoffs, the young Oklahoma City point guard has been under severe scrutiny that his selfish play and careless turnovers hurt the Thunder. A primary and rightful critique of his game is that he should defer to Kevin Durant more, the second-best player in the association. Though as the second-best player on the Thunder, Westbrook has to play within himself and bring his elite athleticism to the table.
But the negatives of Westbrook seem to be discussed more often than his great positives, which is the opposite of Lin.
In case you have not heard of Mr. Lin, here’s a quick summary: He rose from the bench and local obscurity not three weeks ago, and now Lin has transformed into an international sensation, gracing Sports Illustrated in back-to-back weeks. His surprisingly sound play came after he was not the second-string, not the third-string, not the fourth-string, but the fifth-string point guard. Even as people were caught up with Linsanity, high point totals and great assist numbers, his turnovers were criminally ignored, just whisked away as people witnessed in awe that this Harvard underdog (oxymoron?) could happen in the NBA.
Lin has impressed me. But his carelessness with the ball was concerning from the beginning. No one can get away with that and succeed consistently while committing so many turnovers. Look at last night’s game against the Heat: not only did Lin throw poor passes, but Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers simply stole the ball while playing on-ball defense as Lin stood at the top of the key. If you are letting Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers steal the ball from you with relative ease, then something needs a fixing. When Lin is trapped by two defenders in a half court set, he often struggles to get the ball out (the Miami game, but also when the Knicks played Dallas). He is essentially a rookie, so he still has plenty of time to learn the NBA game. No matter, the volume of turnovers is still a problem.
Back to Russ: He still commits many turnovers as well (4.2 per game – for comparison’s sake, Chris Paul is at 2.3), but his excellent scoring ability and usually good passing (assists numbers are down this year) are clouded by the alleged power struggle between him and Durant while one does not exist. By most accounts, Westbrook and Durant are the best of friends. In fairness to Westbrook, outside of Durant and James Harden, the Thunder does not have another consistent, legitimate scoring option. He is truly their second best scorer and the one who is destined to play distributor, a tough balance for a point guard.
While Lin has shown he can fill up the basket on any given night, his passing ability is what has turned around the Knicks. The pick-and-roll he runs with Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire works so well that it opens up shooters on the outside. Since Carmelo Anthony’s return, the Knicks have dropped two of three. Anthony had not played in weeks, and obviously, since then, Lin has dominated New York. But after last night’s game at Miami, it seemed as if people either killed Anthony and/or starting calling Lin overrated.
It only took a week to anoint Lin as the New York hero, and now after one bad game against one of the league’s best defense, it’s time to bring him down? Please. Hype swings both ways. Lin was finally criticized for his turnovers, which should have been a focal point five games into the phenomenon. He was Russell Westbrook on SportsCenter instead of Russell Westbrook, who played very well against the Lakers.
The two are cut from the same cloth with very similar assets and flaws, but until recently, they were portrayed very differently in the media. Westbrook’s postseason flak was deserved as was Lin’s praise, yet the other sides were underrepresented and debated. In Lin’s case, the focus may have swung too far the other way. Please keep commending Lin’s play, but Westbrook deserves credit, too. The Thunder is tied for the league’s best record. If Westbrook were elsewhere, the team would not be there. Give the man some love.