– I want you this morning to take the ball out of sports. NFL combine, NBA super teams, take the ball out of sports. So often in sports, we forget it’s just guys. It’s just women. These are human beings. Years and years ago, Russell Wilson came to the NFL. He was 5’11 and 1/2″, he ran around a lot. Wasn’t a perfect pocket quarterback. And he was a great college player. I loved him.
Johnny Manziel came out. He was 5’11 and 1/2″, wasn’t a great pocket passer, ran around a lot. He was a great college player. I said he was undraftable. It wasn’t about the football player– it was about the guy. Russell Wilson has human traits I think translate to running a football corporation. I think Johnny Manziel is a frat boy.
Remember, all surgeons are qualified that apply for that job opening at Boston General. They all went to medical school. Most got good grades. They’re all qualified. But you hire the doctor that works better with the staff. That listens to his nurses. That has that bedside manner that all of us want and need from a surgeon when our life’s in jeopardy. Hopefully for me, that’s not for a while.
But in the end, we spend so much time looking at the athlete and forgetting he’s a human being. I want you to think about this. Russell Westbrook is getting worse with this group of all-stars. In his last three games, he has shot 26% with 20 turnovers. The Warriors are in his head and this thing in Oklahoma City– yeah, I know they struggled to beat Orlando. It’s a mess right now.
But yet, James Harden is working perfectly with Chris Paul. Now I want you to think about that on paper. On paper, most of you predicted that Chris Paul and James Harden would not work. And you made a lot of sense when you made the argument. I mean, they’re both ball-centric guards. They both love the ball. They need the ball. They’re not as good without the ball. By the way, Chris Paul didn’t even perfectly fit into Mike D’Antoni’s system. That’s what you said, and I heard you say it. Two guards, mostly play the same position, both need the ball in their hands. And yet when Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela play, they are 30 and one this year.
Now on paper, Westbrook should have worked, right? With Paul George. Westbrook is a ball-centric dynamic point guard. Paul George is a great defender, Westbrook’s not, and a spot-up shooter. Westbrook’s not. This should be harmonious. Steven Adams, another Westbrook teammate, never demands the ball. You don’t even have to set up plays for him. He finishes with 15 points and nine boards.
Carmelo’s certainly past his prime, never my favorite player. But Carmelo is not a guy that ever wanted to bring the ball up the court. He wants his shots. Westbrook’s not a pure shooter. Get him the ball. On paper, Houston shouldn’t be this good. On paper, Oklahoma City should be much, much better. But instead, remember Michael Jordan and the Bulls had the triangle offense? In Oklahoma City now, it’s the Bermuda Triangle offense. Points are disappearing, and nobody can figure it out. This is because of the personality of Harden and Westbrook. This is what it’s all about. Harden doesn’t yell at refs. Harden has funny commercials. Harden doesn’t have ugly relationships with reporters. Harden’s not a loner. He’s more of a go out on the town nightclub guy. Harden plays well with others. People like playing with James. People like coaching James. He’s a joyful, open personality.
Westbrook never stops complaining to refs. He’s hard to play with. He’s a loner. He is incredibly rigid. He’s complaining about either something about the refs or, how about this? A couple of days ago with a reporter, even a simple question from a reporter became conflict driven.
– What you mean, what happened? What’d you think, what happened?
REPORTER: I don’t know, I couldn’t see–
– Don’t lie. Don’t lie. You couldn’t see? You saw the instant replay four times. What happened?
REPORTER: He fell on your leg.
– Thank you. Don’t ask me a dumb question you know the answer to.
REPORTER 2: You think it was intentional?
– Did you see it? What’d it look like? What’d it look like? Did anybody touch him? Yes or no?
REPORTER: I didn’t see the replay there.
– Oh, you didn’t see it? But why you asking about something you didn’t see?
REPORTER 2: I just saw the play live.
– Well then, if you didn’t see it, don’t ask me a question. Don’t ask me a dumb question. Obviously it was intentional. Ask me, was it intentional? Nobody touched him, he fell over my leg, trying to hurt me. You know, but hey. That’s how it goes.
– The reason Harden and Houston are working is because of Harden the human being. And the reason Westbrook and all this stuff in Oklahoma City is not working is because of Westbrook the human being. A little odd, a loner, intense, argumentative, conflict-driven guy. That’s why I liked Russell Wilson and not Johnny Manziel. They were the same guy coming out of college, right? 5’11 and 1/2″, run around, wildly successful, took over a program, incredible to watch, hard to stop, but Russell was a grownup. Manziel was a frat boy.
James Harden is a joyful, fun, likeable, coachable, engaged with others, superstar. Westbrook’s the opposite. That’s why Houston’s brilliant and flawless and working perfectly, and Westbrook can’t figure out how to play with two spot-up shooters and Steven Adams, who never demands the ball. Don’t always look at the game. Look at the guy.