Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook is having a historic season, but it wasn’t enough to land him a starting spot in next month’s All-Star game. Westbrook is on pace to drop the most triple-doubles since Oscar Robertson’s record of 41 in the 1961-1962 season. Yet that still wasn’t enough to earn Westbrook a starting gig.
Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
He’ll be an All-Star once the full rosters are announced, obviously, and there might not be a better pair of guards to sit behind than Houston Rockets star James Harden and Golden State’s Stephen Curry. But Westbrook has been dominant this season and his snub has caused controversy throughout the league. He’s still an All-Star, so in the end…does it matter? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this controversial question.
Riley: It doesn’t matter. Westbrook might not start in the All-Star Game, but he’ll probably end up as the MVP. He’s going to be on the attack throughout the game and show why he should’ve been a starter. You know Westbrook has taken the snub to heart, just like he took Kevin Durant’s departure to heart. He denies that either is a big deal, but this will be the ultimate showcase for him to cross a couple of redemptions off his checklist.
Green: It matters to Westbrook and it matters to the players and coaches. The new All-Star voting process is still largely determined off the fans’ votes, despite including players and media for the first time this year. Westbrook’s snub has been a head-scratcher. While Harden and Curry are deserving, Westbrook deserves a spot somewhere on the starting five. He’s the definition of an all-star and he’s been one of the main stories of the NBA season. To not have him starting is criminal.
Riley: I don’t agree with the decision, but there’s a bigger picture. Westbrook will play in the game and he’ll have a chance to star. It would be different if he wasn’t playing at all, but he’ll be the first player off the bench and probably take the very next shot once he enters the game. It’s a story to talk about, but it’s not the end of everything. It’s a show for the fans, but the players and coaches still will get Westbrook on the Western Conference roster, and he’ll do damage.
Green: I’m sure Westbrook will inflict damage once he enters the game, but we shouldn’t have to wait for him to enter the game in the first place. It’s a slap in the face of the most versatile player in the league, and this year’s decision could affect the future voting process. This is a big deal for the Association and could have future consequences. It’s bigger than Westbrook not being chosen as a starter—it’s the process that failed him. Fans shouldn’t be voting anymore. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest. It should be a production contest, and nobody has produced more this season than Russ.