Preying For Failure

Ben Simmons & Russell Westbrook
Ben Simmons & Russell Westbrook

There’s nothing like watching great talent rise. It’s disturbing to see fans praying for a downfall. Gone are the days of honoring great players for what they accomplished while they played, even without a championship. No one respects the Barkleys, Ewings, Iversons, and Millers any longer.

We’re somewhere between the middle and end of the team-up era. The teams who assembled a Big 3 have only accounted for 5 of the last 15 championships. 4 featured LeBron James (Heat & Cavs). The other team is the Boston Celtics that featured Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. I think it’s safe to say that just because a team stacks players, it doesn’t lead to a guaranteed title. You sacrifice roster continuity, cross your fingers, and set your team on a 3-4 year plan in hopes of winning a title.

Stack the Deck Or Build a Dynasty

Currently, the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have big 3’s that they’ve acquired from free agency and trades. They each have one of the most talked about players in the entire league in Russell Westbrook (Lakers) and Ben Simmons (Nets). They’re being dragged across all of mainstream media as the laughingstocks of the NBA. Their respective fanbases (and haters) are on all platforms of social media saying that they should be outside of the league. Blatant disregard of many things that add to their dip in production.

Simmons and Westbrook are the third wheel within their big 3’s. They are no longer the key initiators within the offense and are subject to lesser roles. We’ve seen this story play out with organic teams and we’ve seen it play out with manufactured teams. The organic teams were able to designate roles. Currently, the Golden State Warriors don’t have to give shots to Draymond Green and he gets to fill a role that allows everyone to play to their strengths, including himself. In hindsight, the San Antonio Spurs were able to bring Manu Ginobli off the bench as a 6th man while maintaining facilitation and a scoring punch. Unsung heroes. Dynasties.

Let’s rewind back to the Celtics, Heat, and Cavs. In Boston, Ray Allen began to feel left out. In Miami, Chris Bosh allowed his game to be adjusted in order to help achieve winning. In Cleveland, Kevin Love also had his numbers, usage, and role take a huge nose dive. They all have stories in regards to the changes and how it affected them. It’s never easy.

Fast track to today. Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons have both gone from the primary ball handlers to auxiliary players. Their inability to perform under these circumstances has led to sharp criticism. NBA “fans” want them to suffer injury, want them traded, demoted, and even out of the league.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Simmons has a history of being a defensive stopper and DPOY candidate every year. We’ve also seen what he’s capable of when Joel Embiid wasn’t on the floor with him during his tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers. We’ve seen flashes of how an offense curated around him would function. We still get flashes of his defensive prowess as well against all positions. Not many in the league can matchup with the best on the opposite side. Many don’t even take that challenge. Simmons wears that on his sleeve and prides himself on it. Everyone has once marveled at what could be if he ever had his own team when he’s on all cylinders.

Westbrook came from rebranding himself as Mr Triple Double. After Kevin Durant left his side, he went on an absolute tear. Everyone that has played next to him has endured one of their best seasons on their individual resume. LeBron James, Bradley Beal, Paul George, and James Harden. All big names. I personally believe he helped nurture the growth of what we’ve seen from Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Jerami Grant during their time with him in OKC with the Thunder. They’ve all become #1 & #2 options at various points in their careers since they parted ways. Russ is a former MVP award winner and has a finals berth to his resume as well.

In today’s game, players are micromanaged by fans hourly. All social media posts are overanalyzed. Mental stamina debated. Current relationship status googled. Restaurant food rated. Wives pictured with other players. Where they sit on the bench is under question. Their proximity to the team’s huddle under a microscope. Media meeting with teammates and giving indirect questions built to land precise hits against them for dissension. Basketball savior one night, Shanghai Shark the next. Fans demand that they accept being a sidekick. An afterthought. Once they show visible displeasure, no one takes a deep dive into what happened to arrive at this point. Only hoping to see the next star buried.

✏️Michael Tolliver Jr (Opinionated_MJ)

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