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Liberty Links: There is a middle ground for Russell Westbrook discussion

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Plus Malik Monk, coffee with the Spurs, and clueless Sixers owners.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook put up another 50+ point triple-double last night, in case you were under a rock and didn’t hear about it. People to seem to be upset about Westbrook TAKES for a number of reasons, so let’s chat about it before we get to today’s links and Sixers content.

A brief word on Russell Westbrook

The MVP debate is something I’ve mostly stayed away from because the factions in the battle are all convinced of their superiority. There’s very little rational discussion, or even progression past the almighty triple-double or the win/loss columns.

The same polarization applies to Westbrook’s season in general, aside from the merits of his MVP case. Depending on who you ask, he is a one-man demolition crew with not a soul to help him or a selfish chucker whose self-obsession is self-destructive.

I think the answer rests somewhere in the middle. Sure, isn’t exactly running with the ‘96 Bulls, and the pieces around him are all fitting to boot. The Thunder need to surround a whirlwind like Westbrook with shooters, and a lot of their key rotation cogs can effectively be ignored on the perimeter. Jerami Grant is a wonderful human being that some of you probably root for from afar, but if he’s getting minutes in crunch time of a playoff series, you are going to run into some trouble.

By virtue of Westbrook’s all-consuming style, there is also no reason to expect the supporting cast to be able to just pick up and go—with no drop off—once Westbrook hits the bench. He dominated the ball at a historic rate this season, and that comes with a real cost when it comes time to rely on other people to create offense or account for his time on the bench. Teams settle into a rhythm and identity over the course of a season, and Oklahoma City just spent 82 games letting Westbrook unleash his inner Incredible Hulk on the NBA.

Unfortunately, the blind rage feeding the Hulk doesn’t always discern between enemies and allies. Maybe the Thunder suffer short-term by letting Victor Oladipo run the offense more during the regular season, but the developmental reps would have served he and the Thunder over the long-term. Even if you think it’s possible he wouldn’t be or isn’t good enough either way, the team’s style of play dampened any realistic hope of improvement.

Yes, the Thunder’s best option was often, “Throw the ball to Russ and hope he figures something out.” But when you sat in the driver’s seat for the entire year, don’t act surprised when the untrained passenger in the back seat gets their first chance behind the wheel and wraps the car around a telephone pole.

Chad Ford mocks Malik Monk to the Sixers at No. 4

I will probably change my mind on Monk about 75 times between now and draft night, and it feels like a safe but uninspiring way to go at No. 4. He’s a great fit and a player type the Sixers would really benefit from acquiring, but taking a mostly one-way player in the top five who also isn’t an elite shot creator isn’t going to get me to shout from the mountaintops.

Feel free to laugh / furrow your brow at various selections on this board at your leisure. Harry Giles at 12 is a real doozy, with the Timberwolves taking Lauri Markkanen at No. 6 coming in at a close second.

Exploring the Unwritten Curriculum of the NBA Playoffs — Shea Serrano, The Ringer

You know why nobody believes in your team? Because you’re the Hawks, you know what I’m saying? You know why everybody hates your team? Because you have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and Kevin Durant and you’re just destroying everyone. It’s part of it.

The homie Derek has a “daily” podcast now

He’s smart and going to be talking about the Sixers a lot more than he used to be. This is good for everyone!

Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Patty Mills drink coffee together

This is just as wonderful as it sounds. A few highlights:

  • Diaw forgetting where Pau Gasol plays
  • Parker mostly stays low-key throughout the video, but he crushes Diaw repeatedly when the moment presents itself

David Blitzer admits Sixers owners were “completely clueless” when they bought the team

You don’t say.