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Just about everyone around the NBA had the same reaction to Russell Westbrook being left out of the Western Conference starting lineup for the 2017 All-Star Game in New Orleans: Utter disbelief. What with the dynamic Oklahoma City Thunder point guard averaging a freakin’ triple-double and all.
Charles Barkley called it disrespectful, Kevin Garnett dubbed it the biggest All-Star snub in league history, and Chandler Parsons succinctly said, “Dude averaging a triple-double and not starting in the All-Star Game is wild.” All of this was so plainly obvious that even an NFL player could point it out.
Westbrook’s own teammates made their thoughts on the matter pretty clear:
As it turned out, the only person who didn’t seem all that blown away by it was Westbrook himself. At least that’s how he played it with reporters publicly on Friday. He could still be stewing inside and further plotting the next chapter in his quest to light the whole league on fire for an entire season.
“Just move on,” Westbrook told reporters at practice. “It is what it is. It’s the nature of the business and the game. Just play. I don’t play for All-Star nods or All-Star bids, but to win championships, and every night I compete at a high level. It’ll work out. Just continue to do what I’m doing and play the right way, and everything else will work out.”
Of course, there is one other faction of folks who shouldn’t be all that surprised Westbrook was left out of the West starting lineup: The majority of fans, who own 50 percent of the vote and the tiebreaker, and who chose Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Houston’s James Harden over Westbrook.
The league’s players voted Westbrook tops among West guards, which gave Westbrook some solace:
“Honestly, one way or another, it doesn’t change anything for me. That’s a great honor. Being an All-Star is something you don’t take for granted, but like I said, for me, I don’t play to play in the All-Star,” he added. “There’s guys that may play to play in the All-Star, but I don’t play to do that. I play to become a better player and play to win a championship.”
Westbrook was also the top vote-getter from the media, but he could take that or leave it, since he probably feels the same way about them as he does the Warriors. Speaking of which, it was Curry’s selection as a starter over Westbrook that got everybody so hot and bothered, and here’s what the Golden State superstar had to say about breaking up the Westbrook-Harden starting backcourt:
“It’s a big storyline because those two guys are doing amazing things this year,” said Curry, via ESPN.com. “There’s only two spots you can fill. Unfortunately somebody was going to get left out. I’ve been on the other side of that four years ago. It’s how it goes. The fact I get to represent my team in that game and to start is something that I definitely appreciate.”
Surely Westbrook won’t add Curry to the list of Warriors whose “a**” he’s going to get when they meet again on Feb. 11. Holding grudges is absolutely something he would not do. He just moves on. Or not.
But when Westbrook says, “Honestly, one way or another, it doesn’t change anything for me,” we know he’s telling the truth, since he’s won back-to-back All-Star Game MVPs as both a starter and a reserve.
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