Kerr: Westbrook's "Next Question" Tactic Could Be Dangerous For NBA
Warriors coach Steve Kerr yesterday joked about handling future press conferences with "next question," referencing the phrase being used by Thunder G Russell Westbrook during his media availability, but Kerr also said he thinks those tactics are "dangerous for the league," according to Ethan Strauss of THE ATHLETIC. "Next question" is "already a favored joke catchphrase around the NBA." However, Kerr said, “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 this league." He added, “You’ve got to feed information to the fans. 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" (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/21). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "You have to have people you want to root for, not just because it's your team. ... All I want from my athletes is some kind of personality. Do not hide behind the commercials and mythology" ("The Dan Le Batard Show," ESPN Radio, 4/22).
WESTBROOK VS. THE WORLD: In Oklahoma, Clay Horning notes Kerr's comments come in the wake of Westbrook's ongoing feud with Oklahoman sports columnist Berry Tramel, as Westbrook "hasn’t answered his questions for months." The rift began in January after Westbrook "made three free throws" to send a game against the Lakers to OT. After the Thunder eventually lost, Westbrook in the postgame media availability said that he "didn’t want to talk about free throws." Still, Tramel asked about the free throws and ever since, Westbrook "has offered 'Next question,' to every Tramel inquiry." Because Tramel was in Portland for Games 1 and 2 of the Thunder's series against the Trail Blazers, and fans around the league "got to hear Westbrook offer his typical treatment to Tramel ... it’s become a bit of an NBA topic." Just in the last few days, Tramel has "been a guest on NBATV, Dan Patrick’s national radio show and Colin Cowherd’s national radio show to talk about it" (NORMAN TRANSCRIPT, 4/21). Tramel said of Westbrook's tactics: "He’s been doing that for the last three months. I didn’t think it would change with the playoffs, but I didn’t know for sure." Tramel added, "It’s not a big deal to me. I find the whole thing a little bit humorous. ... He’s always combative with the media. I don’t really see what the big news is" (SLATE.com, 4/20).
BAD FOR BUSINESS? USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes Westbrook's media tactics are a "really bad look for the NBA," as they have in some ways "overshadowed the series." Wolken: "At some point, in a season that will be largely remembered for superstars acting bizarrely without consequence, should the NBA start to worry that it's creating too big of a gulf between its players and its fans?" If the NBA "should have one major concern coming out of this year, which saw some fairly mediocre television ratings across the regular season and some troubling small sample size numbers early in the playoffs, it's whether the connection between fans and the game's biggest personalities is eroding before our very eyes" (USATODAY.com, 4/22). TNT's Charles Barkley called Westbrook's behavior "unprofessional" and said, "Because a reporter says something bad about you, you don't have the right to just say, 'Next question'" ("Inside The NBA, TNT, 4/21). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith: "It's just uncalled for. ... There are no personal questions here. You're talking about basketball questions being asked" ("First Take," ESPN, 4/22).