There are three primary candidates for the 2014-15 NBA MVP award — Stephen Curry of the NBA-best Golden State Warriors, offense linchpin James Harden of the Houston Rockets, and league-leading scorer and all-around terror Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook has made his case largely over the past 1 1/2 months, keeping OKC in the playoff hunt despite the extended absence of reigning MVP Kevin Durant. Things got worse for the Thunder on Monday with the news that key interior defender and scorer Serge Ibaka would be out for an indeterminate period of time following knee surgery, but the mere presence of Westbrook suggests that they can beat out the New Orleans Pelicans for the West's final postseason berth. He's been that good.
Given the circumstances, it would not be surprising for Westbrook to have thought about the prospect of winning the NBA's greatest individual honor. As he told reporters before Monday's game against the Dallas Mavericks, though, he's barely thinking about taking home the hardware. Royce Young of ESPN.com posted the relevant exchange to Twitter:
Russell Westbrook was asked pregame in Dallas some MVP questions. It went as well as you might assume: pic.twitter.com/wnhMSymVBb
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) March 16, 2015
Congratulations to this unnamed reporter, now the apparent frontrunner for MVP. He or she would join such legends as Oscar Robertson, Charles Barkley, and Kobe Bryant as one-time winners of the award.
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Jokes aside, it's possible to understand Westbrook's point of view here without ascribing it to his well-known tendency to treat various media questions with disdain. Although Westbrook has recently shown a keen interest in pursuing individual achievements even when it makes him look a little ridiculous, he is known as one of the sport's fiercest competitors and always focuses primarily on winning games. The Thunder need every one of them right now, too, so it would likely be seen as poor form to talk about how great it would be to win MVP when the franchise is so close to falling into the draft lottery. Westbrook is no friend of the media, but that doesn't mean he's ignorant of how he comes across when he speaks with them. Professing zero excitement over his candidacy is basically the less kind version of shifting focus to team-wide concerns.
Yet there's another possible explanation here — perhaps Westbrook is just trying to squash one of NBA Twitter's greatest memes. During Durant's emotional MVP acceptance speech last spring, cameras caught Westbrook eying the trophy from his seat. That image turned into this:
Westbrook said in October that he was unaware of the meme (and all memes, apparently), but he very well could have come across it in the past few months. And there's no better way to end a joke than by killing its premise.
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