After surviving the Celtics' Rajon Rondo, Miami faces another dynamic, athletic point guard in Oklahoma City's Westbrook.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The already dangerous Russell Westbrook has found another dimension to his game while pushing the Oklahoma City Thunder into the NBA Finals.
First, the All-Star point guard was a threat to get to the rim at any moment. Then, he added a midrange game to keep defenders off-balance. Now, he’s getting rid of the bad decisions that were the biggest weakness left in his game.
“I always say this is a very good team, but Russell Westbrook is what makes them very special, because there’s no one else like him in the NBA,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said Monday.
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“Personally, I think he’s the most athletic guy in the NBA for what he does and how he does it and how quick he does it.”
After surviving the constant threat of triple-doubles from Rajon Rondo during the Eastern Conference finals, the Heat will have its hands full at the point once again.
The series starts with Game 1 in Oklahoma City Tuesday night.
Westbrook brings his own triple threat of blazing speed, defensive intensity and often-deadly shooting. And if he can keep taking care of the ball, there’s one less way to stop him.
Westbrook’s 1,097 turnovers during his four-year career are the most of any NBA player during that span — a stat skewed slightly by the fact that he hasn’t missed any of the 312 games played. Westbrook’s per-game turnover average was among the 10 worst in the league all four of his seasons, and he was worst of all last season at 3.9 per outing.
But during the playoffs, he’s committing about one-third fewer turnovers while slightly raising his assist totals.
“You see where we’re at. We’re in the Finals because of Russell, because of our leader, our point guard,” Thunder teammate James Harden said. “He’s done a phenomenal job of really controlling the ball, making the extra pass, and then when his shot is there or when his lane is there, he’s taking it to them.”
Miami just got through dealing with Rondo, who averaged 20.9 points, 11.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds in the East finals. The Heat won despite a 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound effort from Rondo in Game 2 and his Game 7 triple-double.
It was the sixth triple-double ever in a Game 7 and the first since — who else? — Westbrook did it in last year’s West semifinals against Memphis. The others to accomplish the feat were Larry Bird, Jerry West, James Worthy and Scottie Pippen.
“My job is to make sure we win,” said Westbrook, who’s averaging 21.7 points, 5.6 assists and 2.3 turnovers in the playoffs.
Wade expects he’ll get a turn guarding Westbrook, and he thinks Miami will have to use a series of different defensive looks. It won’t be all on Heat starting point guard Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers said defending Westbrook starts in slowing down the Thunder’s transition game and keeping him out of the paint.
“We’d rather have him shooting pull-ups than have him getting all the way to the rim,” Chalmers said.
to buy Grizzlies
Majority owner Michael Heisley has been trying to sell his Grizzlies for years to someone who will keep the team in Memphis, and he has finally found his buyer.
Heisley said Monday he has an agreement to sell his NBA team to a group headed by Robert J. Pera, a 34-year-old businessman from California.
ESPN.com reported the sale would be for approximately $350 million.
The sale is subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors and other conditions.
Heisley, a 75-year-old Illinois billionaire, moved the Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001.
Heisley had a deal in 2006 with a group headed by former player Christian Laettner that fell through when it failed to line up financing.
Heisley backed off a possible sale to Oracle founder Larry Ellison this year, saying he didn’t want to sell to someone who would relocate the team.
Pera is a former Apple engineer who left in 2005 to start Ubiquiti Networks, a communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment. A recent stock dip has left him worth an estimated $980 million.
|Best-of-seven series between Thunder and Heat (all games on Ch. 4)|
|Tuesday||Okla. City||6 p.m.|
|Thursday||Okla. City||6 p.m.|
|June 19||Miami||6 p.m.|
|x-June 21||Miami||6 p.m.|
|x-June 24||Okla. City||5 p.m.|
|x-June 26||Okla. City||6 p.m.|