Let’s take a trip back to Game 2 of the NBA Finals. June 14, 2012. The Thunder led the Heat 1-0 in the NBA Finals thanks to Kevin Durant’s 36-point Game 1 performance on 60 percent shooting.
Then came Game 2, when Russell Westbrook clearly wanted more shine – he had a solid 27-11-8 in Game 1, but he only shot 41 percent.
Westbrook came out chucking in Game 2, and was memorably bad. His final stats weren’t terrible – 27 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds – but he inexplicably took 26 shots (38 percent shooting).
Magic Johnson, then an analyst at ESPN, destroyed Westbrook after the Game:
"That was the worst point guard, in a Championship Finals, I’ve ever seen. He was too wild. He was taking off-balance shots. You have to come out and set the tone with Kevin Durant … Russell Westbrook has gotta set the tone with Kevin Durant."
Despite the loss, Westbrook – then only 23 years old – was undeterred.
"“I’m not making no adjustments, regardless of what anybody says,” Westbrook said Saturday before the Thunder’s practice. “I’m going to play my game regardless of what happens.”"
Five years later, has Westbrook changed all that much? He’s still a terrific scorer, attacks the basket more aggressively than anyone, and can put up stats by the boatload. But he remains out-of-control, and his shot selection is certainly questionable.
For these reasons, I’m not bullish on Paul George sticking around Oklahoma City. They should play well together in spurts, win around 50 games, but getting to the Finals, or winning a ring this year? I don’t see it.
Westbrook wouldn’t change for Durant, why would anyone think he’s going to change for Paul George? Because he has his MVP?
Last point: Magic Johnson was a pass-first point guard. Magic Johnson coveted Lonzo Ball, a pass-first point guard. I can’t, under any circumstances, see Magic Johnson going all-in on Westbrook in July 2018.