Russell Westbrook is awesome. He has a unique, brazen and generous character. He’s an all-around tremendous basketball player with both extraordinary skills and great basketball IQ. He’s an inspiring teammate with an exemplary work ethic. He is also unlikely to lead the OKC Thunder, as currently configured, to an NBA Championship. Before last July 4 — when Kevin Durant absconded for Golden State and super-team title dreams — OKC had a real shot.
Durant rolls back to his former team’s gym for the first time Saturday night. Some fans will boo and some will cheer him, but all will look upon his 7-foot frame the way people look at their lost innocence. Things were different — and better — when it was still around, even if knowing things is helpful. The Thunder still hope for a title, but it’s just simply a lot less likely. Thunder forward Nick Collison said when Durant left: “We wanted to get our team back. We felt like we could win a championship.” They looked again like they could contend, beating Cleveland on Thursday. It’s still possible that the Thunder could win it all. But the feeling is increasingly fleeting. Durant is wearing the wrong uniform — and the worst part is it seems to fit.