Russell Westbrook can be a pain.
Pain to his opponents. Pain to his teammates. Pain to the media.
Sometimes, it seems Westbrook even takes pride in being a jerk. Which is fine. His cutthroat attitude is part of who he is, and it has gotten him a long way.
Lately, Westbrook has clashed with Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. For months, Westbrook has answered all Tramel’s questions with, “Next question.” Yet, Tramel keeps asking them – as he should. Westbrook has earned control over a lot of things. Tramel shouldn’t cede control of his job to Westbrook.
The back-and-forth has gotten increased prominence during the playoffs, when postgame press conferences are nationally televised. Both sides have found plenty of support. Westbrook’s fans love that his intensity never relents. Many also respect Tramel’s professionalism.
Four years ago, Westbrook infamously told Tramel, “I just don’t like you.” Westbrook got into it with Tramel again two years ago. But Tramel continues to cover the Thunder the best he can.
Likewise, Westbrook is trying to lead Oklahoma City the best he can. That means picking battles, even small ones like this, and pushing himself to win them all.
But after the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Trail Blazers last night, Westbrook finally gave an inch. But just an inch.
Tramel asked how the Thunder’s defense of Damian Lillard changed from the first half to the second half.
“That’s a good question,” Westbrook said. “Not sure.”
Tramel asked about the lessons learned about overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Grizzlies in the 2014 playoffs. (Oklahoma City trailed 2-1 and 3-2 in that series, but never 3-1).
“Really don’t know,” Westbrook said.
For Westbrook, those answers were a huge breakthrough. They surprised everyone, even Tramel. Just a few days ago, the columnist predicted Westbrook wouldn’t change his two-word answers anytime soon: “He’s not going to give in this playoff series.”
Maybe this means the series is over.