While NBA fans have become accustomed to the strong takes and bold comments from former NBA player and current analyst Charles Barkley, he took an alternate route on Tuesday. When Barkley joined ESPN’s ‘Get Up,’ he was in the midst of discussing the Houston Rockets’ trade for Russell Westbrook as his opinion took a sharp turn in defense of the 30-year-old guard.
Barkley began by raving about how fun Westbrook and James Harden will be to watch play together. And shortly after, he proceeded to throw massive defense behind the criticism which the former Oklahoma City Thunder guard takes. His opinion was so strong that he even admitted to feeling “sad” for Westbrook.
“It’s going to be fun to watch. Listen, I really feel sad for Russell Westbrook, I’m not going to lie to you … We look at all these players in the NBA, and some of them are bums and can’t play … This kid, Russell Westbrook, gives 120-30-40-50 percent every single game, and all he does is get criticized. It really drives me crazy.” Barkley stated.
Barkley then proceeded to explain to Jalen Rose and Mike Greenberg that while Westbrook may not be the perfect player, that his effort on a nightly basis is admirable.
“Hey listen, we all want to win a championship, but I’m going to always respect Russell Westbrook. First of all, I want to make it clear – is he the perfect basketball player? No. But that guy gives maximum effort every single night and as an old player and a fan, I’m going to always admire that man.” Barkley concluded.
It was eye-opening to hear from Barkley, and while he’s defended players previously, it’s apparent how highly he thinks of Westbrook and the career he’s put together to this point.
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Russell Westbrook Trade to Rockets
The deal which sent Westbrook from the Thunder to the Rockets was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and featured Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two pick swaps heading to Oklahoma City. It came less than one week after the deal which resulted in Paul George heading to the Los Angeles Clippers to team up with Kawhi Leonard.
Following the trade in which the Thunder received an incredible five first-round picks (four unprotected) for George, it was apparent they were trending towards a rebuild. Westbrook’s trade came after the team dealt Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for another first-round pick.
With the three deals together, it means the Thunder have acquired eight first-round picks and four pick swaps this offseason alone. They also may not be done dealing just yet, as Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder could potentially be next.
Russell Westbrook & James Harden’s Numbers Together
Although Westbrook and Harden only spent three seasons together with the Thunder, by the final year in 2011-12, it became apparent how high their ceiling could be. Even with Kevin Durant on the roster and averaging 28.0 points per game that season, both Westbrook (23.6 points per) and Harden (16.8) had career years from a scoring standpoint.
As we know, the emergence of Harden led to the trade which sent him to the Rockets, largely due to the fact that Oklahoma City was unlikely to be able to re-sign their big three along with forward Serge Ibaka. The two guards managed to continuously improve their numbers over the three-year span and stand out even with Durant averaging 30.1, 27.7 and 28.0 points over the trio’s tenure together.