The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Russell Westbrook on Steph Curry picking James Harden for MVP: ‘Who’s he?’

Russell Westbrook, left, is shown being defended by some guy in a Western Conference finals game last year. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Steph Curry recently offered the opinion that, given how the NBA’s MVP process has gone in the past, if he had a vote this year, it would go to James Harden. On Thursday, Russell Westbrook was asked about Curry’s choice, and he apparently didn’t think much of it, to judge by his response.

“I don’t care, it don’t matter what he say,” Westbrook said. “Who’s he?”

Curry is, of course, the reigning two-time MVP — among other things — a fact of which Westbrook is almost certainly aware. However, the Thunder guard is locked in what many view as a two-man race for this year’s award with Harden, although LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard also deserve inclusion in that field, and Westbrook’s competitive instincts kicked in when asked about Curry’s take.

Westbrook’s edge in the race is that he has been racking up triple-doubles for the Thunder at a furious rate (almost literally, given his intense demeanor). With averages of 31.8 points, which leads the NBA, 10.6 rebounds and 10.3 assists, he is on pace to become the first NBA player to average a triple-double over a season since Oscar Robertson in 1962.

Mark Cuban is right: Westbrook doesn’t deserve to be NBA MVP

Westbrook also has Oklahoma City at 38-29 and in sixth place in the Western Conference despite the offseason loss of Kevin Durant, which speaks well of his ability to lead his team to success. That’s also Harden’s best MVP attribute, as he has the Rockets at a surprising 47-21 and third place in the West despite a supporting cast arguably more nondescript than Westbrook’s, one that features the likes of Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley and Ryan Anderson as major contributors. It doesn’t hurt that Harden is leading the league in assists, at 11.3 per game, to go with averages of 28.9 points and 8.0 rebounds.

Houston’s record is what Curry pointed to in an interview Monday on the “Dan Patrick Show,” although the Warriors guard was trying not to stir up any controversy. He initially tried to pass on Patrick’s question about the MVP race, but when pressed — and told he couldn’t name anyone on his team — he said, “I’d probably pick James.”

“You kind of have to reward the better team, I would think, record-wise,” Curry explained. “That’s just kind of going in the history of the MVP award. So, I think James will probably edge him out just off of that.”

In other words, Curry doesn’t necessarily think Harden is the most deserving MVP candidate, he is simply recognizing that team success has always played a major role in determining the award. As The Post’s Tim Bontemps pointed out, “no MVP has finished outside the top three spots in his conference since Moses Malone did so for Houston in 1982.”

Bontemps surveyed 106 media members who cover the NBA, and found that Harden earned exactly half of all first-place votes cast, in weighted balloting that resulted in a sizable, if very unofficial, win for the Houston star. Harden finished with 910 points, well ahead of Westbrook (768), Leonard (658) and James (600), with the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas (94) coming in a distant fifth, ahead of the Wizards’ John Wall (74) and Durant (60).

With a month left in the season, this poll shows a clear favorite for NBA MVP

It is unclear if Westbrook has been made aware of that informal vote, but even if so, it would only add to the sizable chip already on his shoulder. The six-time all-star may or may not win MVP this year, but his impressive numbers — with 34 triple-doubles so far, he is already second only to Robertson’s single-season record of 41 — ensure anyone who glances at the NBA record book will know who he is.

Loading...