Russell Westbrook has always had a fairly contentious relationship with NBA media, but his back and forth with The Daily Oklahoman‘s Barry Tramel after Game 3, if you can call it that, has taken ahold of the news cycle. Westbrook chose to answer multiple inquiries from Tramel with a scowl and “next question,” which then led to Paul George giving the exact same response when a reporter asked him why he felt to need to dunk the basketball near the end of the 4th quarter when the game was already out of hand.
After Game 3 win over Blazers, Thunder's Russell Westbrook with another round of "next questions" pic.twitter.com/iLa12KEfEG
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 20, 2019
Though Westbrook’s non-answer is exactly new, the stage in which he uttered it is bigger, and his response to Tramel neared something resembling actual vitriol. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who spent a good chunk of time doing color for TNT, was asked about Westbrook’s tactics with the media over the weekend.
“I just feel that we have to be very careful as a league,” Kerr told The Athletic. “We’re in a good place right now. Very popular. Fans love the game, the social dynamic, the fashion. But more than anything they love the connection they feel to the players. I think it’s important for the players to understand that it’s a key dynamic to this league. I don’t think this is a healthy dynamic, for this league, for any player, any team, any local media, any national media.
You don’t have to give a great answer, but it’s dangerous when you go down that path of no communication because one of the reasons people like the league right now is we have a lot of great players, really good guys who handle themselves well. So don’t kill that. You’ve got to keep that going. That’s a big part of the business.”
Westbrook’s “next question” act came after a win, which makes his decision to go that route all the more curious. For a follow up performance, Westbrook answered a question from Tramel following the Thunder’s Game 4 loss with “That’s a good question. Not sure.”
After Game 4 loss to Blazers, Thunder's Russell Westbrook (14 points, 5-21 shooting, minus-17) alters his "next question" strategy in stand-off with OKC reporter: "Uh, that's a good question. Um. Not sure." pic.twitter.com/c0PSt3y5RP
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 22, 2019
With the Thunder facing elimination in Game 5, we may only get one more Westbrook postgame presser this season. But you can count Kerr as one of the many people who aren’t exactly thrilled with the Thunder star’s interactions with the media.