NBA – Russell Westbrook seeks to win chemistry with Paul George


Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant would carry it out almost once per game.

The duo's favorite improvisational play began with Durant standing on the block below the basket and Westbrook almost near the middle of the court. If the defender of the pole had his back to the ball, Westbrook would stare at Durant and, instead of starting the original play, he would simply throw the ball over the top of the defense by a kind of half-alley. Years of chemistry on the court became two quick and easy points.

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Westbrook and Paul George have tried it a couple of times this season. It still has not worked.

After being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason, George spent time watching the tape of Durant and Westbrook playing together, trying to get an idea of ​​where Westbrook might place him best, or how he should move without the ball.

"I think trying to get as much out of him as possible is key," said George. "That way, when he makes plays on the full court, I'm in position, ready to receive the ball instead of catching up, preparing my feet, trying to decide what to do, I'm ready to shoot or attack that point." [19659002] Westbrook, who enjoyed a great solo campaign like any player in NBA history last season, glimpsed life as the only show in the city and the first postseason round that came with that. There is a possibility that Westbrook rekindles the spirit of the team that the Thunder once had, and in the process discarded any idea that the stars should avoid sharing the court with the stubborn OKC shipowner.

The first month of the season has been an uneven, unstable, irregular start, 7-9, but there is still hope for something close to that magical combination of Westbrook-Durant that captivated the city for eight years.

Even if it has not worked yet.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant shared a unique chemistry on the court. Can OKC find a similar success with Westbrook and Paul George? AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki

With headphones on, Durant got off a bus and entered the Chesapeake Energy Arena last February for the first time as a visitor. The headphones remained on while he took the court to warm up, but around him the noise increased, with songs and boos from the fans screaming.

His name was announced in the starting lineup of Golden State Warriors but was obscured by a cloud of boos. Every time he touched the ball: boos. In the line of free throw: "cupcake" songs.

The Warriors defeated the Thunder and Durant was brilliant, but the night was emotional. Durant and his teammates left the apartment wearing muffin shirts, a volley turned towards the fans.

When Durant takes the floor on Wednesday night, baduming he can (has been raised to probable), there will still be boos and muffins. chants But the visceral and vitriolic animosity between the fans of Thunder and Durant no longer exists. One, because they took it out of their system that February night. And two, because the Thunder organization has pressed the conversation forward, instead of backwards.

There were many examples, such as the message from general manager Sam Presti to "continue" the day Durant announced his decision to leave. Or the metaphorical reminders of distributing baseballs or MacGyver images. But nothing sent the message stronger than what the office did.

First, it was Westbrook and his contract extension in August 2016, which preceded his historic MVP season.

Then it was the impressive trade last summer to add George, and another to add Carmelo Anthony.

Even with the appearance of the Three Three as a showcase, the future of Thunder is in Westbrook, and they wait, in George as well. The addition of Anthony was a final uppercut stroke in a Grand Slam, and at least enough to consolidate Westbrook in OKC for most of his career.

Thunder's main office implemented a plan in July 2016 to answer a simple question: How do they go from the middle to the top level again, without hitting bottom? They identified stars to pair with Westbrook, the more available, the better, and George was first on the list.

"He has done an incredible job, he has done a great job since I have been here," Westbrook said. of Presti. "He's finding ways to keep making us a better team … Definitely, I'm very, very grateful to have someone like that in charge of making those decisions."

Westbrook and George come from similar backgrounds: both are from Southern California, were recruited below the threshold and NBA lottery selections that attracted skepticism and They are very connected with their families. Their personalities contrast but they adjust, with Westbrook noisy, explosive and stubborn, and George reserved, soft and fresh.

"There's something in him, for me, that's really something like robust and stable," George's Presti said in September. "He's been in the league for a while and he's seen a lot of things, I think he has good confidence in him."

George likes to fish; Westbrook prefers dominoes. During the summer, Westbrook even went fishing with George, the first time he tried.

"He did nothing," Westbrook said. "He did not catch anything either."

Westbrook and Durant built something special, a dynamic relationship that had many ups and downs but produced brilliant chemistry on the floor. When it was good, it was really good.

But George does not feel any stress trying to live up to that standard.

"I did not feel any pressure," said George, "to go in and try to be the replacement, or Russell's second [guy]I did not feel at all."

Sixteen games in the season, Westbrook and George still does not share that relationship on the court, with both players still looking for the right balance at the beginning of this experiment.

Westbrook is a dominant personality, and George is content to go with the flow. But Westbrook has often spent time in the locker room after the games emphasizing that George is an aggressive and badertive player. Because what will make the relationship flourish, like Westbrook and Durant before, is mutual trust in the other.

What remains of everything is, once again, an unknown future. Westbrook is blocked, but the tic-tac of George's free agency leaves an egg shell element to everything. Each loss feels like an accusation, and if Thunder continues to grope, all the fishing and the union will not be enough. But Westbrook is committed to making it work and working in Oklahoma City, because Durant's departure stung him personally.

And when Durant returns to the city on Wednesday, the past remains and the emotions will flow again, but the Thunder's remarkable contrast was then and now they have remodeled the feeling of everything. Westbrook and Durant were the great duo he once was, and although George is not a replacement, it does represent something that Russ and Thunder feared they would never see again: hope.

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