“Fans now have a villain,” Ty Lawson said.
So it seems, following the bizarre events on Sunday night.
See, SuperMascot Rocky shoots backwards halfcourt shots during a fourth-quarter timeout of every game. If he makes one, fans get free Qdoba queso. It’s perhaps the most-popular during-timeout thing they do at Nugget games.
Well, Rocky’s final attempt appeared to be going in, but the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, walking onto the court, jumped up and blocked/goaltended the shot. The arena erupted in boos and fans continued to boo so every time Westbrook touched the basketball.
So that was bad enough, right?
Rocky returned to midcourt again during the next timeout. And Westbrook, again, caught the shot, this time throwing the ball into the stands. The boos became deafening.
“Russell made a lot of friends here,” Nuggets coach George Karl said sarcastically, following Denver’s 121-118 win. “He’s a feisty guy who likes to create intensity. I like intensity. I’m sure the next time we’ll have some locker room talk.
“I saw him block the shot and then he threw the ball into the crowd. I know in the rule book it says you’re not allowed to throw the ball into the crowd.”
Karl was told it wasn’t the actual game ball, but just one that Rocky was using.
“Well that’s a good question — he did throw a ball into the crowd,” Karl said. “Maybe I can call the league office on that tomorrow, along with 20 other things.”
(Sunday’s game was one filled with many questionable calls from the officials).
Asked about Westbrook, Lawson said, “I thought it was funny, you don’t expect that. Nobody that’s come through the Pepsi Center (has done that). Funny guy, man.”
Westbrook seemed to feed off the boos, first flashing a villainous smile, but then firing a dagger of daggers. With 22.9 seconds left, and the Thunder down three, he unflappably floated an arcing 3-pointer over Wilson Chandler, tying the game. He finished with another monster game against Denver –- 36 points, eight rebounds, nine assists (and seven turnovers).
In last Wednesday’s Thunder blowout of the Nuggets, Westbrook scored 32 points in just 28 minutes. Here’s the lede to my game story:
He’s one of those guys you either hate or you hate. He’s nasty and gnarly, jawing and clawing his way through a game. Russell Westbrook. He’s all grit, they’d say in Oklahoma City, all gall, they’d say in any other city.
But there he was Wednesday, hustling (russelling?) for 28 monster minutes. In the Thunder’s deluge of a win against Denver, 117-97, the point guard scored 32 points with four assists.
Benjamin Hochman/Denver Post