Thursday, April 10, 2014

0 comments You Aren't Going to Believe This, but Skip Bayless Makes the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook Dynamic About Himself

Skip Bayless loves to make things about himself. He's written a column about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant where he (surprise) makes their dynamic about himself and things he has said in the past about Westbrook and Durant. Skip is just a disaster as a writer, but he sure does love bringing any topic back around to himself. He seems to believe athletes pay attention and give a shit about what he says on television. It's all about attention to Skip and he's getting good at getting attention. Everything else related to sports, he's not so good at. Let's see how Skip Bayless thinks he is part of the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook dynamic.

Some nights I'm convinced Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will win their first NBA championship this June. Other nights, I'm Thunderstruck by their bizarre limitations.

Sometimes Skip runs, sometimes he hides, sometimes he's so scared he won't be relevant. 

Durant and Westbrook are the strangest duo this side of Jekyll and Hyde. If only Dr. Jekyll could explain what keeps going on with Westbrook's knee. And only Dr. Freud might clarify the Nice/Not Nice conflict within Durant.

Skip has this fascination with a player being nice or not being nice and that affects how he plays the game of basketball. I don't know. Magic Johnson was nice when he was on the court, Shaquille O'Neal always had fun on the court, while Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan would rather rip your head off than lose. Different players are different when it comes to competitive nature on the court. Just because LeBron is "playing angry" doesn't necessarily mean he is playing better.

On second thought, maybe Freud could better explain the team's mysterious decision to possibly rest Westbrook, age 25, for one game each of the Thunder's six remaining back-to-backs, starting last Sunday night. He watched as Durant & Co. were blown out at home by Dallas.

Dr. Freud wasn't a doctor that dealt with physical ailments. Freud may be able to say that Westbrook's knee kept acting up as a response to some mental or emotional ailment he was dealing with, but I'm pretty sure explaining the Thunder's strategy to sit Westbrook wasn't down Freud's alley. Skip has abused this "Dr." analogy too much and it's probably time to move on. 

Yes, he keeps saying the knee is fine and keeps playing with his usual 100 mph rage to win -- and without a hint of a limp. Yet he's being rested as if he were 37-year-old Tim Duncan?

That's a good point. Maybe Skip and Stephen A. Smith should have a debate on "First Take" about what mysterious ailment has befallen Russell Westbrook. Is it West Nile Virus, HIV, or has he been suspended for every 6th game by the Thunder for some unknown violation of team rules? Skip and Stephen will debate it and come to a completely speculative conclusion on "First Take" sure to test the limits of the viewer's patience and logic. 

Don't ask Thunder coaches or management, who are CIA secretive and lead the league in media stonewalling. This naturally makes you wonder what they're hiding.

I wasn't kidding when I said Skip will speculate why the Thunder are resting Westbrook one game of the remaining back-to-backs.

Could Durant win a title without Westbrook? I used to believe so.

I raved on "First Take" about the most freakish scoring talent I'd ever seen -- 6 feet, 9 inches tall with arms stretching from Austin to Oklahoma City and the lightning release and long-distance touch of a Ray Allen.

For years, I railed about how ego-crazed Westbrook,

Not that this article is about Skip talking about himself and his own opinions or anything like that of course.

Last season, Westbrook took the NBA's second-most shots behind Kobe Bryant -- 102 more than Kevin Durant! As much as Durant liked (even loved) his little buddy Westbrook, the two had occasionally clashed over No. 0's shot selection.

"Would LeBron James and Russell Westbrook clash as much as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook do? Find out at 9am when Skip and Stephen A. Smith discuss this, plus whether Tim Tebow could get Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal to reconcile."

Durant/Westbrook still seems an uneasy alliance, a Thunderstorm on the horizon.

Get it? It's a Thunderstorm because Durant/Westbrook both play for the Thunder? See the word "Thunder" is in "Thunderstorm," which underlines just how fucking creative Skip Bayless can be with his writing. Step back, this is real sportswriting happening.

But on Wednesday night, April 24, 2013, life changed for the Thunder.

(Cue dramatic music)

Game 2 of the Houston-OKC first-round playoff matchup, in OKC, was Patrick Beverley's first NBA start. Westbrook hadn't missed a game in two college and five NBA seasons. Beverley, battling to prove he wouldn't back down, went for the ball as Westbrook attempted to call timeout. The problem wasn't so much that Beverley violated an unwritten rule -- let the opposing point guard tuck the ball under his arm and make the "T" signal. Beverley knifed too low and made contact with Westbrook's planted knee.

"Would LeBron James' knee have buckled if Patrick Beverley dove at it in this same situation? Find out at 9am when Skip and Stephen A. Smith debate whether LeBron's knee would have buckled in this same situation, as well as find out whether LeBron's knee would give out because he chokes in big situations or because he doesn't play angry enough."

Westbrook was gone for the rest of the playoffs. Without him, the Thunder survived the Rockets in six games and beat Memphis in Game 1. Then, it happened.

(Cue more dramatic music)

In four straight narrow losses to Memphis -- soon to be swept by San Antonio -- Durant turned into Du-can't. Not without Westbrook.

Get it? His name is "Durant" and Skip changed it to "Du-can't." The creativity of this is blowing my mind.

This is the part where Skip ignores the Durant helped lead the Thunder to a playoff series victory over the Rockets as pretty much the only scoring option and then focuses entirely on when the Thunder played the Grizzlies to say that Durant came up small. In fact, Skip doesn't even focus on the entire series because that would involve mentioning Durant averaged 28.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 6.6 assists during the Memphis series. He led the team in all these categories by the way. But let's get to the part where Skip cherry-picks information.

In "clutch time" of those four losses -- the last five minutes and the game within six points -- Durant shot a combined 3-17, 0-3 from 3 and 2-5 on free throws, with one assist. Lord have mercy.

The next two leading scorers in that series were Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson. Think part of the reason Durant came up small is that everyone knew he would get the ball? I'm sure Skip would argue Michael Jordan would have come up big in these moments. Because he always did, right?

This prompted "told you so" correspondence from a highly trusted, longtime NBA source of mine who had tried to warn me my view of Durant vs. Westbrook was upside down.

And of course it took this series for Skip to actually believe this highly trusted source of his. This source was so highly trusted that Skip didn't believe this person and would not change his view of Durant v. Westbrook based on this person's "trusted" advice, but now all of a sudden this anonymous person's advice should be taken by all of Skip's readers, despite the fact Skip wouldn't take this person's advice himself. Got it. Don't do as Skip does, do as he says, after he has spent several years ignoring the advice he now wants his readers to believe as he says they should believe.

My source is plugged in to several superstars.

And of course don't forget that no matter how plugged in this source was, Skip blatantly ignored what the source was saying. But now, Skip totally thinks we should pay attention even though Skip didn't think enough of how "plugged in" this person was to listen to what he/she had to say in the past.

My source had told me Westbrook actually was Batman to Durant's Robin -- that the point guard built like (and who often played like) a strong safety was the one with the killer instinct, the assassin's clutch guts. Westbrook, my source had insisted, was mentally tougher than Durant and more feared by opponents late in games.

I still love how Skip is totally buying what the source is saying despite the fact he didn't believe this person previously. But those five games where Durant was the Thunder's only scoring option totally convinced Skip that Durant isn't the one with a killer instinct, it was Westbrook who was mentally tough. I wonder if the situations were reversed and Westbrook had to play against the Grizzlies without Durant how that would have gone?

Still, on air I hung in with a Durant I often had called my favorite NBA player.

Look at how the king of making declarative statements with much gusto is wavering on whether he thought Durant had the killer instinct or not. On air, Durant was still Skip's favorite player, but in that hollow crevice where most humans have a heart the black seeds of discontent with Durant's killer instinct was growing. So Skip wasn't wrong, he just wasn't ready to tell everyone how right his NBA source truly was. I like how Skip essentially admits here to peddling bullshit on the air.

Westbrook showed up for training camp but -- what? -- immediately needed a second surgical procedure. He returned ahead of schedule for the season's third game, but, after recording a triple-double and finishing the game against the Knicks on Christmas Day, he needed a -- seriously? -- third procedure and missed the next 27 games.

I know, Gregg Doyel is totally like "Why all this surgery and why is this surgery necessary when I thought the last one was successful?"

And "my man" KD hit bottom at home on New Year's Eve, scoring a grand total of one point in the fourth quarter as Portland outscored the Thunder 27-16 and won by four. Two nights later, again at home, the Thunder allowed a late 14-0 run by 10-21 Brooklyn and lost by two. Durant: four in the fourth.

Of course Skip can't simply analyze the situation of Durant playing without Westbrook, he has to tie Durant's performance in with his own personal feelings about Durant, thereby making himself become a part of the story. I'm guessing Skip doesn't teach Sunday School at his church, because otherwise he would probably have himself on the ark with Noah or insert himself as one of the servers at the Last Supper.

Skip chooses to cherry-pick his data here. Russell Westbrook was out from December 27 to February 13. During the month of January, an entire month in which Westbrook was out, Durant had his highest scoring month and best shooting month of the entire season. Skip can have his two cherry-picked games to draw an idiotic conclusion that gets him attention, but I'll take the entire month of January to show that Durant stepped up when Westbrook got injured. The Thunder's record without Russell Westbrook during this time? They were 21-7 without Westbrook during this time, but Skip still tries to sell us on Durant stepping back and "hitting bottom." What a joke.

The thing is, I believe Skip Bayless knows Kevin Durant stepped up without Westbrook and he is only saying the opposite to garner attention and be a troll. There is a difference in being a contrarian and simply saying something contrary to gain attention.

That's when -- on air -- I gave up

Here goes Skip making Durant's performance without Westbrook about himself again.

and said, OK, Durant is no longer The Man in OKC. Westbrook is. The Thunder, I said, would ultimately go as far as Westbrook carries them when he returns.

And of course in typical non-sensical Skip Bayless fashion he says this after Durant has his best scoring and shooting month of the season, as well during a time period when the Thunder went 21-7 without Westbrook.

I have no idea whether Durant was watching.

He probably wasn't Skip, but I still appreciate your diligent efforts to push yourself into the storyline and make it seem like athletes respond to your criticism by doing what you request they do. It's very egotistical of you.

I know he has twice taken public issue with me, for criticizing Westbrook and for criticizing him for getting too close to LeBron James in offseason workouts.

I'm sure Skip got a massive erection out of an athlete responding to him publicly with something he has said. Attention is all Skip requires. Take away the attention and he becomes a sad, 60-year old man screaming into a void. Unfortunately, Skip is so good at garnering attention and ESPN is so shameless in giving him a forum to gain attention, Skip is able to get under the skin of athletes and keep attention for himself. It's amazing the huge ego that Skip Bayless has. He isn't able to write a column or make a statement without drawing himself in as part of the story.

But Durant soon went on an MVP tear. The Thunder won 15 of 17 -- including one at Miami -- before Westbrook returned for the home rematch with the Heat.


It's ridiculous how Skip seems to believe he has an impact on how professional athletes perform. It just goes to show how massive his ego is and how desperate he is for attention that he would believe his comments could have an impact on a professional athlete. I wouldn't expect anything more from Skip though. He's a Grade-A troll.

What sometimes detonated Durant was getting a technical foul. Again down to Portland at home, this time by three with 3:45 left, Durant blew up after two straight questionable calls and got a tech. Then he blew up on the Blazers with 10 more points as OKC won by eight.

Were we seeing some new fire in Durant's belly?

I love the narrative that is driving Skip's analysis of how he (Skip) is affecting Durant's game while also driving the narrative that an angry NBA player is a better NBA player. What this all amounts to in my mind is that sometimes an NBA player comes through in the fourth quarter to lead his team to victory and other times that player doesn't come through and lead his team to victory. Of course, for the sake of a narrative Durant's performance was entirely dependent on the criticism he received from Skip Bayless regarding how he performs while Russell Westbrook is injured.

Last season, Nike promoted Durant's signature shoe with a "KD is not nice" campaign. This suggested Durant had developed a complex after losing in the Finals to LeBron and being viewed as too buddy-buddy with his good buddy. "Not Nice" KD drew 12 techs last season, equaling his total for his first five seasons. He always seemed to be mad at somebody.

This season, Durant already has 13 techs. Yet he recently announced a new "Strong and Kind" Movement. Huh?

I think Skip gets confused sometimes. This isn't Kevin Durant getting together with Nike and telling them how they are going to market him and his shoe. Nike had a campaign idea and most likely ran it by Durant who liked the idea and the commercials that would follow. Durant's "Strong and Kind" movement isn't affiliated with Nike and isn't a part of Nike's promotions for his signature shoe. So "huh" is explained by knowing that one is a movement Durant is starting and the other is a campaign to sell shoes. I hate to break it to Skip, but Larry Bird doesn't eat McDonald's while he's shooting basketball at the gym either and Michael Jordan doesn't play basketball with Bugs Bunny. I know, it's shocking to hear.

Durant told ESPN's Chris Broussard: "If you see me play, I'm barking at guys, I'm talking trash, I'm being physical. But at the same time, if you fall on the ground, I'll help you up, and after the game we'll talk as friends. So it's not a weakness to be a kind person. Everybody always says nice guys finish last, but I'm trying to change that."

Nice ... or Not Nice?

Why doesn't Skip tell Durant which one he should be, you know, since athletes like Durant listen to Skip and adjust their behavior to reflect what Skip Bayless thinks these athletes should do.

Durant often unsuccessfully fights the natural nice in him. He sometimes comes off as a surly jerk in on-court postgame TV interviews because he's trying to seem dead-seriously angry about winning a championship.

Or this could be a reflection of what Durant said above, which is that when he's playing on the court he's barking at guys and talking trash. But I guess that's too obvious of an answer and Skip wants to take this into a more non-sensical direction.

Translation: He's trying to come off more like Westbrook naturally does.

Well, of course. It's incredibly obvious that Durant wants to be like Westbrook so he acts surly because Westbrook comes off as surly. What Skip should do is publicly tell Durant to not try to be more like Westbrook and that will fix the whole situation. Because, you know, Skip Bayless believes himself to have an effect on the behavior of athletes and probably also believes he controls the weather.

Durant still appears to wrestle with exactly why God blessed him with such rare talent. Westbrook doesn't seem to think about much but using his freakish speed, strength and spring to play basketball as hard as he can. Westbrook often seems happier than Durant.

This reads like the writing of a seven year old writing a book report.

"Russell doesn't think about how to play basketball. He just knows how. Russell plays as hard as he can all the time. Kevin doesn't always try hard. Russell looks happy. Kevin is not as happy as Russell. They both have dogs. Kevin loves dogs. Russell has a dog but doesn't like his dog. Skip is up his own ass."

Now, Durant's first championship hinges on Westbrook's not-nice knee. Once so durable, now so defective?

I bet Westbrook's knee gave out from trying to play basketball as hard as he can.

But guess what happens now. I hope you are sitting down, because Skip Bayless makes Durant's knee injury about Skip Bayless. I know, it's shocking to hear that Skip would do this.

Three times I've had medial meniscus tears scoped and bounced back quickly. These aren't big deals.

But you don't play professional sports. You sit in a chair and put words on a computer screen when you aren't busy arguing with another troll in the ESPN studios. But yeah, playing in the NBA and sitting in a chair are very close to being the same thing.

No, I don't play NBA basketball.

"I pulled a muscle in my back running last week, but I only took a few days off. So why is it Joel Embiid is out for the entire season with a back injury? Sure, I don't play college basketball and I'm not seven-feet-tall, but I bounced back quickly. Why didn't Embiid?"

But last July, I had what my surgeon called a "significant tear" on a knee whose cushioning cartilage had been clipped once. Three weeks later, I had built back up to running eight miles.

Well Skip, that's just because you are a lot tougher than Russell Westbrook is. You ran eight miles after three weeks and that's the same thing as pivoting and playing on a knee while playing basketball against world-class athletes. There is no difference. Now if I tell you how special and tough you are will you stop waving your dick around...or at least stop making everything about you? Thanks, that would be great.

I still play a lot of basketball without issue.

Do you play a lot of basketball against NBA players? Do you play basketball everyday against NBA players? If not, shut the fuck up. It's not the same thing.

Something went very wrong with Westbrook's knee. He's obviously sucking it up and rampaging through pain game after game. By resting him for the second game of these five back-to-backs, the team obviously is trying to save him for a deep playoff run.

I guess Dr. Freud isn't needed to figure out why Westbrook was sitting out one game of the Thunder's remaining back-to-backs because Dr. Bayless is on the case.

Late in playoff games, "Kind" Kevin has no chance without him.

It's not that "Kind" Kevin has no chance without Russell Westbrook due to some deficiency on Durant's part, but it's that the Thunder have very few scorers they can count on from night-to-night that could help replace Westbrook's scoring average per game. I'm sure that's entirely Durant's fault. I wonder how Westbrook would perform without Kevin Durant around? It's hard to say considering Durant hasn't ever missed an extended portion of any NBA season.

One thing is for sure, Skip Bayless sees Durant's performance late in games as directly dependent on what kind of criticism or praise Skip directs towards Durant. Obviously, all athletes listen to the criticism that Skip Bayless has for them and respond to it on the court or field. Skip always find a way to drag himself into the story. What a lonely, sad man.