Russell Westbrook’s situation with the Los Angeles Lakers continues to nosedive, leading Rob Pelinka and the front office to take drastic action — by buying out the final year of his contract. Suddenly, Westbrook is a free agent, itching to prove his worth on a new roster.
His phone rings, and on the other end is Brad Stevens, who wants to set up a meeting to discuss potentially joining the Boston Celtics on a one-year deal. During the meeting, Stevens does his best to convince Westbrook that the best way to repair his ailing career is to come off the bench, pointing to the longevity a similar move had provided to fellow Laker-turned-free-agent Carmelo Anthony.
The deal on the table is a one-year veteran’s minimum – after all, the Lakers just parted with a whole heap of cash to send Westbrook packing, so his bank account isn’t hurting right now. In return, Westbrook would come off the bench to do what he does best – create mayhem and pressure the rim like he’s trying to turn the basketball into a giant diamond.
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Nobody is expecting the California native to shoot threes, or to provide spacing. Instead, Stevens and Udoka want to feature Westbrook’s rim-running antics as part of their system. Malcolm Brogdon would play at the two, the same position in which he rose to prominence with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Derrick White is left to fight for minutes across multiple positions.
Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet have the green light from deep, while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been promised to be staggered alongside Westbrook, ensuring there is enough shooting gravity to give the pinball-type guard the room he needs to operate.
Westbrook is sold. The thought of winning a championship with the Lakers’ most hated rivals has him salivating, especially after Los Angeles essentially paid for this to happen. There’s too much poetry to ignore, and with that, the contract is signed.
The first few months are rough.
But then, Udoka provides a masterstroke.
White is back in the rotation as the primary point guard off the bench. Al Horford is now the second unit’s power forward, and Luke Kornet is relegated to fourth big in the rotation. Meaning Westbrook is now a full-time small-ball five center.
Think about it.
Westbrook is at his best when grabbing boards and turning the jets on, beating the defense down the court before either ramming it home or finding a shooter or slasher. Horford’s presence alongside him in the front court means that a switching system can still take place, with scrams coming left and right on mismatches. And suddenly, Boston begins their second mind-boggling resurgence in as many seasons.
Westbrook is reborn.
Regardless to say, Boston’s defense isn’t as impenetrable as it was last season, but their offense has left coaches scratching their heads — missed shots are turning into quick buckets, and drives to the rim are creating wide-open looks for Tatum and Brown.
Skip Bayless has to retire, he can’t take all the praise coming Westbrook’s way.
Russell Westbrick is now Russell Westworld — because he’s a gun-slinging cowboy putting up numbers you only see during a simulation of NBA 2K.
Lakers fans are in a daze, some are switching allegiances, and most importantly, Boston looks like they’re finally ready to raise Banner 18. Rumors are already surfacing about Westbrook getting a big payday elsewhere once the season ends.
Kevin Durant is still at a stalemate with the Brooklyn Nets and has become a legendary contributor to NBA Twitter. There are rumors about the superstar forward becoming the latest addition to the Uncle Drew franchise, going by the moniker ‘Big Man Bob.’
The post-season arrives.
Tatum is a man possessed, Brown is proving why Stevens stood by him over the summer, refusing to trade him away. Grant Williams sets another record for three-pointers made in a Game 7, and Westbrook is doing his best “Monstar’s impression” – well, the version of the Monstar’s before the Tune Squad drinks the secret stuff.
The NBA Finals arrive, and the Celtics have a revenge series with the Golden State Warriors. Small ball against small ball. It goes the distance, a Game 7 back in Boston. The TD Garden is rocking. A Westbrook triple-double, 47% shooting night from Brown, and a 50-point night from Jayson Tatum lead Boston to victory.
A banner is raised. Fans rejoice. And Westbrook goes down as one of the best veteran minimum signings in NBA history.
Now snap out of it!
Boston might very well win a championship next season, and Tatum is always a risk to drop a fifty-burger on somebody’s head. But Westbrook is not going to be the galvanizing factor behind a championship run — well not for Boston, and most certainly not as a center.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with letting your imagination run free, and then sitting back and asking what if?
Because, what else is there to do in the off-season if not dream up ludicrously extravagant notions of how things could play out? Basketball is supposed to be fun, right?