Russell Westbrook and John Wall are changing jerseys and moving addresses but instead of it being a blockbuster deal in a league that never sleeps, it’s indicative of a standing neither no longer possesses.
It’s not quite a crossroads or a fall from grace, but the NBA moves fast and franchises have to move faster.
The writing was on the wall for Wall when it looked like destiny was in the hands of Bradley Beal and he’d have to be more Michelle than Beyonce, so to Houston he goes. His injuries and questionable public decision-making made him easier to move. Even if it didn’t mean he was some villain in need of flogging, it was another signal his time was over from a place that didn’t get to see his true potential and probably never would.
For Westbrook, the fall could be more dramatic because, seemingly, we’ve seen him max out, and the back nine for players with his profile are never pretty. At least in Oklahoma City, where he won an MVP and put up historic numbers, he was the king of the castle.
Now, he’s a superstar nomad, a journeyman who’ll suit up for his third team in as many seasons, none of which had realistic championship aspirations with him as a headliner.
When trades like this happen, the stars tend to be looked at from a glossy lens rather than the sober one, the highlights and raw numbers instead of the fine print.
At their best, both could be game-changers, whirling dervishes and dynamic playmakers who seemed to buck the trend. Instead, they now seem caught against the tide and by time.
Maybe Westbrook in an open-floor setup with Beal and Davis Bertans on the wings clears up the lane for him to use his remaining gifts, but will it translate into anything substantial?
Lest we not forget, Westbrook caught the deadly coronavirus and didn’t look much like his old self in the Orlando bubble, and for all we know about a vaccine being on the way, the long-term side effects are yet to be fully fleshed out.
Reuniting with Scott Brooks pairs him with the coach who allowed him to blossom in Oklahoma City but for him to be his best self, Westbrook needs to play a more mature game that isn’t based so much on flash but on control.