O'Neal on Westbrook: "Jordan and I had to go through this"

Several NBA figures, such as that of the legendary center, raise their voices against the constant criticism that the Wizards point guard receives.

The season of the 'new normal', as rare as it is for everyone, is being one more for Russell Westbrook. The explosive Washington Wizards point guard, on his way to his fourth season averaging a triple-double, continues to combine the two fronts that have accompanied him throughout his career: statistics and critics. Known history. No script twist was expected in the American capital and it hasn't. The start of the course did not help: the first game became his first statistical treble of the season, but also his first defeat. One of many that remained to come. It took the Wizards five games to get their first win. The victory, already in the sixth, came without Westbrook; the previous falls, accompanied by a triple-double of his. Maddening. Even for Russell, trained in the art of dealing with criticism. And each time more. Throughout the course, the results have only allowed him a short, easily identifiable period to breathe: from February 14 to February 27 of the same month. Seven victories in eight games for a team that seemed to be resurrected. A positive streak to show that, with Westrbook, not only can you win; but it can be much easier.

It lasted as long as it lasted. After the positive sprint, new braking. Almost harder than all of the above. The season in Washington has been difficult, especially for Russell, who started with a sore quadriceps that he has left behind. Health protocols, franchise with more postponed games, etc. The victories came when it seemed that the team was already able to show its true potential, as if all of the above had been irretrievably influenced by the various setbacks that were splashing. An unreal image. A cry of hope that has run out of air. They continue to add more defeats than victories and the calendar tightens, with access to the playoffs very far away and an elusive play-in among the many hands that are trying to reach it. And, again, criticism. Of course, with Westbrook on target. Not even their hyperbolic performance against Indiana, with a triple-double (35 + 14 + 21) that no one else has managed to sign in the history of the competition, scared them away. "This Westbrook ... Take him to Barcelona or CSKA and tell him to be European champion: there is no possibility of that happening," Dino Radja said.

You have found a counterpoint. On TNT, where he has already made some of the most controversial statements of the season, Shaquille O'Neal has stepped up. Paradoxically, in his defense, an uncommon tonic within an old guard that, normally, discredits the current era of basketball to raise his own. "(Westbrook) is one of my favorite players. Unfortunately, in this business, all the greats have had to go through this: Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Isiah, Magic, myself, D. Wade ... To get that maximum respect you need a ring. When you are a great player and you are achieving great numbers, people will always say: 'Wait until you have a championship'. If you don't get a championship, it seems that you have not achieved anything ", observe about it. In addition, he adds several names, all of them from great legends, considered as such, who were left without achieving glory in their prolific careers. "It cannot be said that Allen Iverson or John Stockton are not some of the best point guards in history. It cannot be said that Karl Malone or Charles Barkley are not some of the best interiors; but that's the way the NBA is," he ditches, too. legendary, center

"Everybody thinks it's over ..."

Shaquille was not the only one. His main partner in the Wizards, and top scorer of the competition, Bradley Beal, had already raised his voice repeatedly. "He is one of the best teammates I have ever had. He loves basketball. He loves this sport in all its fullness," he went on to say. Unmitigated praise that, however, counted on the fact that it came from within the franchise itself. Not now. Duncan Robinson, forward for the Miami Heat, has also joined the camp: "Criticism of this type of Russell cannot be tolerated. I know people will always say that he is accumulating statistics or looking for statistics, but he has also done it with wins. What he is capable of doing in the absence of Bradley Beal is simply incredible. I do not think he receives all the appreciation he deserves, "he says on his own podcast, the Duncan Robinson Podcast.

MVP in 2017, Russell is close to triple-double his career statistical average. In Oklahoma, where he was in the ring, in Houston, last season, or now, in the Wizards, his numbers have always been at the top of the league. If he follows the natural course of events, he will end up being the player with the most triple-doubles in history, ahead of Oscar Robertson's 181. From Duncan Robinson's point of view, a fact that should be valued much more: "That I've been doing this for so long makes it so impressive ... Everyone seems to think it's over and it's over. There are people. that he will say until it makes it difficult to win, but the reality is that he has been in really good teams. There is a misconception of attributing it all to the championships, but there is more than that. It's just amazing that he can play at such a high level for so long time, "he concludes. Compliments for ears used to mud, but still adding points, rebounds and assists.

Photos from as.com
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