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Saturday, July 6, 2019

Russell Westbrook chased another star teammate

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Russell Westbrook is alone in Oklahoma City. Again. For the second time in three years, an All-Star teammate and an MVP candidate have run out of the city, leaving him behind.

Paul George went to the thunder of Oklahoma City and asked for an exchange. The franchise forced it, sending it to the Clippers of Los Angeles in exchange for a crazy selection of selections, to accompany Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

George clearly wanted to leave Oklahoma City just one year after signing a four-year, $ 137 million contract. It was not his game on the court the problem. George was an MVP finalist in 2019 and was named First All-NBA Team for the first time. During the 2018-19 season, he averaged career highs in points (28.0), rebounds (8.2), assists (4.1), steals (2.2) and minutes (36.9) per game. He flourished and even published the best PER of his career (23.32).

So, why did he want to leave? Well, going back home in Los Angeles was probably a big part of the equation, but also partnering with Kawhi Leonard was probably even more important.

In just two years with the Thunder, George realized what Kevin Durant had had several years before: there is no way for a championship with Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook is a phenomenal individual player. He won the MVP in 2017, has been eight times All-star, twice selected by the First Team All-NBA, five times selected by the Second Team and a Third Teamer in 2019. There is no doubt about the 30 years. Individual skill of the old man on the court. The problem comes with improving other players and their relationships with their teammates.

Westbrook delivers many assists, but rarely improves those around him. He constantly plays hero-ball when things get tough and the Thunder has suffered as a result. Nor does it seem that he has never completely won the trust of his fellow stars. He famously faced James Harden and his break with Durant was just as messy. Now we know that George was not happy either:

Since Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City after the 2015-16 season, the Thunder have yet to get out of the first round of the playoffs. That comes despite the shrill statistics of Westbrook.

Paul George left the Thunder because associating with Leonard would be easier than partnering with Westbrook. For the second time in three years, Westbrook has to deal with the loss of a superstar teammate. There is only one common denominator in both outputs: Westbrook himself.