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Brad Mills/USA Today Sports

Devoid of context, if I asked you how things were going in Washington, D.C., you, as a reader of this website on whom I’m about to project a few beliefs you should probably objectively hold anyway, would likely rattle off something like the following: “The leader is inept; the major people involved hate working with each other; everybody is working against the greater interests of the people they’re supposed to be working on behalf of, to the degree that they only tolerate each other for the sake of image; any good thing that happens is purely incidental and doesn’t change my view of anyone involved.”

To a degree, I’d agree, without clarification. Specifically, though, the Washington Wizards have been the greatest thing that has ever happened to the late period Jimmy Butler Minnesota Timberwolves. John Wall began proceedings by showing up to Team USA practice in the summer looking like someone who had just spent an inordinate amount of time at Reagan National Airport. Despite a win against the feisty Clippers on Tuesday night, it hasn’t gotten much better.

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Watching Russell Westbrook over the past two months has inspired a litany of think-pieces attempting to analyze what makes such a player tick, and at what point that tick becomes the soundtrack to a time bomb that goes off every 24 seconds. Westbrook is whatever you want him to be, and he isn’t; the love he attracts is in direct correlation to the immense hatred he inspires. His gallops to the rim, nonchalantly ignoring every open teammate while realizing that he has a better chance 1-on-5 than they do unguarded, are both crass and brave, simultaneously shattering mirrors and creating new ones. His playing style is iconoclastic (and his style is iconoclastic, for better or for worse), giving the middle finger to both old-school team devotees and disciples of statistical analysis. Basically, at his size and with the limited means at his disposal, what he’s doing should be impossible, but Russell Westbrook doesn’t share our reality.

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Courtesy of hoopdiamonds.com

Courtesy of hoopdiamonds.com

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

At this point, we have become accustomed to superstar injuries in sports. For every Cal Ripken, Jr., there are dozens of Paul Georges, each shining intensely before falling at a most inopportune time. In the cases of players like George, who can be the only contributor in specific areas most of the time, the team surrounding the star can only do its best to plug the gap and hope for a miraculous turnaround time. For those teams, season-altering injuries often spell disaster, leaving bloated pundits and defeated fans to point fingers.

What’s happened to the Oklahoma City Thunder should by no means be largely season-altering, nor should the loss of reigning NBA MVP and scoring champion Kevin Durant cause immense concern for the long-term prospects of the team. The operative word in that sentence is “should,” twice over, because what we may witness is an opportunity seized on the parts of both head coach Scott Brooks and the man who will dictate the Thunder’s fortunes for at least the next six to eight weeks, point guard Russell Westbrook. How Oklahoma City responds to the temporary loss of its hero may unlock the door to the Western Conference and reveal the true potential of one of the league’s most talented and divisive players.

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