Evanson column: Press-conference temper tantrums aren't a good look for Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is a clown.
Not the kind that wears makeup, big shoes and a rubber nose, but the kind that embarrasses himself, his team and the league he represents — and yet, thanks to the growing level of tolerance afforded our superstar professional athletes, he gets away with it.
In case you're unfamiliar with the All-Star guard's recent petulance, aimed specifically at The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel, allow me to catch you up: In response to postgame questions by the columnist, who has covered sports in Oklahoma for more than 40 years, Westbrook simply answers, "Next question," typically without eye contact and with a wry smile.
Immediately after the Thunders' Game 4 loss to the Blazers this past Sunday, he changed things up, offering the following:
"That's a good question," Westbrook said — then proceeded to not answer it.
Westbrook answered questions from a Los Angeles Times reporter and Royce Young from ESPN, but he kept stonewalling Tramel, responding to another question, "I really don't know."
I know what you're thinking — Tramel must have eviscerated Westbrook with a scathing column about the veteran player sometime between now and the former UCLA guard's arrival in Oklahoma City more than 10 years ago, and as a result, Westbrook retaliates in this way, right?
But per Tramel, he's never written anything overly negative about the perennial All-Star, and in fact, he regularly compliments his achievements on the court.
While Westbrook's behavior toward Tramel is ridiculous and immature in any way, shape or form, it's made even more so by the apparent lack of any reasonable excuse.
When confronted by Tramel during a postgame interview after a game in 2015, an interview in which Westbrook repeatedly answered questions from a variety of reporters with "good execution" and "we executed well," Westbrook responded to Tramel's question regarding whether something was wrong with, "No, I just don't like you."
He didn't and hasn't elaborated since, but he continues to pull his not-so-magic act after games, now in front of the national media there to cover the playoffs.
Such behavior isn't just a "Westbrook thing," nor is it isolated to the NBA. The NFL's Marshawn Lynch pulled a similar act in 2015 when, at the Super Bowl media day, the Seahawks running back answered upwards of 30 different questions with the laconic response, "I'm just here so I won't get fined."
Lynch — and, shamefully, others — defended his actions then by making light of it, as well as suggesting he just wasn't comfortable talking. But while that might be a legitimate reason in a vacuum, it carries less weight when you consider the numerous commercials Lynch made in the wake of the debacle, including a Skittles ad that made light of his press conference non-performance.
Going back to the NBA, in 2003 during the playoffs, the Blazers' own Rasheed Wallace repeatedly answered every question of a postgame press conference with, "Both teams played hard." Wallace has since explained that his act was a response to an ongoing feud with local press, over what he described as inconsistencies and inaccurate reporting.
Then there was Cam Newton, who walked out of his Super Bowl postgame presser and was later defended by talking heads protesting, "He's just a competitor."
In recent years, it's become increasingly popular to discredit or mistreat the media (see: our president), and when it's warranted, I have no issue with a coach or player taking issue with and confronting something written or said about them. After all, they have the right to defend themselves or set the record straight. But to figuratively plug their ears, stomp their feet and "blah, blah, blah" reporters whose job it is to convey the details of the game to their audience — that's rude and childish at worst, and unprofessional at best.
Talking to the media is part of your job. No one likes everything about their job. In fact, many like very little about the work they're in a way forced to do. So while Lynch, Wallace and now Westbrook feel empowered to rudely and childishly dispatch the press corps after games, they're really only making themselves look bad to nearly everyone outside of their faithful social media following, who simply fall in line, lock-and-step with the "sun" their "planet" cosmically orbits.
What happened to being an adult? The Blazers didn't seem to have a problem acting as adults following their loss in Game 3, nor does 90% of the professional sports world. Sit in front of a microphone, answer a handful of questions and move along.
It's called being responsible and accountable to the people who ultimately pay your salary — the fans. After all, it's their interest that fuels the multi-billion dollar sports world, and it's them who Westbrook is offending with his toddler-esque behavior.
Grow up, Russ. You're undeniably talented on the court, and by others' accounts, you're a pretty decent guy off of it, but your postgame performance isn't funny, defensible or acceptable in any way. It's just a bad look, for a good player, in a world that continues to allow it. Rubber nose or not.