“Next Question” is now THE catchphrase of the NBA. Players and coaches are getting a kick out of mocking Oklahoma City Thunder guard, Russell Westbrook and his treatment of The Daily Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel.
After Warriors coach Steve Kerr joked about handling future press conferences like Westbrook after Sunday’s game four, Kerr’s tone became serious and matter of fact. There’s nothing funny about Westbrook’s actions at the podium, as Kerr said according to an article by Ethan Strauss of The Athletic.
“I think it’s dangerous for the league,” Kerr said. “ I just feel that we have to be very careful as a league. 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 the league. I don't think that this is a healthy dynamic, for the league, for any player, any team, any local media, any national media.”
Kerr’s points are solid and correct. Westbrook’s actions are uncalled for because these reporters are asking questions about the game. They’re not in the press rooms asking personal questions. If they were, then the players, by all means, have the right to reply to the reporter anyway he sees fit. But the beat writers and reporters who are in the post game scrums aren’t trying to get in anyone’s business. They are simply asking for insight on the game that was just played. That’s it. That’s all.
It’s not that egregious for Westbrook or any other player to sit on the podium and talk about what just happened during the past 48 minutes. Just answer the five or six questions and roll. Give them some cliche answers that follow a deadpan template-bland, mundane, but efficient. Give them some trash talk or a hot take to aggregate if you feel like it, but don't come to the podium, evade questions,and waste your own time and the reporters’. Hell, why even bother to make yourself available if you don’t feel like talking to the press?
What’s really interesting about this matter is the fact that it seems as if Westbrook’s behavior with the media is just coming to the surface because of how he’s answering Tramel. Westbrook has always been short and curt with the press for reasons valid, invalid, and known to him.
The Thunder’s media relations team share some blame in this because they have yet to say something to Westbrook and essentially enabled this behavior.
Ironically, Westbrook is in the middle of a $205 million deal. Part of the reason for his deal is that fact that the league was able to thrive because of the active participation of the media and its coverage of the league. It shouldn’t be a problem to face a scum of people for 5 to 7 minutes, given the tv deals and media coverage that’s responsible for these $200 million dollar deals and extensions.
If the “trend” spreads from Westbrook to others ( Paul George even got in a ‘next question’ after the Thunder’s game 4 vs. the Blazers), look for fines to be levied. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be surprising if Westbrook pulls a Marshawn Lynch and tell the scrum he’s only here so he wouldn’t get fined.