One by one, Oklahoma City Thunder players cleared off the practice court. Rookie two-way guard P.J. Dozier finished a round of free throws, Paul George disappeared through a door after shooting about a hundred corner 3-pointers, and head coach Billy Donovan and Steven Adams walked toward the corner corridor after talking pick-and-roll positioning at midcourt.
Underneath a basket across the court, Russell Westbrook sat on a basketball leaned up against the stanchion. Next to him sat Maurice Cheeks, reclined up against the padding next to Westbrook.
With 2Pac’s “I Get Around” popping through the speakers, they sat alone together in the spacious practice facility, talking. It wasn’t an unusual sight; Westbrook and Cheeks are almost always together after practice.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale
They routinely compete in free throw contests against each other — Cheeks wins a lot of them, by the way — and are always connected in conversation.
Knowing what was likely happening in this Westbrook-Cheeks meeting, a couple staffers couldn’t resist wandering over to join in. Eventually, somehow, a bet was made for Cheeks to race strength trainer Kevin Hyde.
Ready, set, and before “go” Cheeks took off — a savvy veteran move — and won in a “sprint” from baseline to half court as Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” played.
Westbrook, almost assuredly having a hunch, had placed his bet on Cheeks. He roared with pride at his pick.
The synergy between Westbrook and Cheeks started basically from Day 1, when Cheeks was brought in as a top assistant under Scott Brooks in 2009 with a pretty straightforward job description: Russ.
Even after Cheeks left the Thunder to become head coach of the Detroit Pistons in 2013, he returned to OKC the next season after being fired early in 2014. As a player, Cheeks was known less for flash and more for simple traditional accolades: poise, demeanor, pass-first, efficient, conservative.
In a lot of ways, he was the anti-Westbrook. He fit the floor general mold, and was no stranger playing alongside big talent and big personalities such as Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley.cheap nfl jerseys china nike
Last December, when Cheeks wasn’t yet named a Hall of Famer, Westbrook made an unprompted pitch for his assistant coach, but not necessarily because of on-court achievements.
“That’s just the stigma,” Westbrook said of the complicated nature of legacy. “If you won, oh, three championships then [you’re worthy]. Like in my opinion, Coach Cheeks — I tell him all the time he should be [in the Hall of Fame] because of the different things he’s done, not just for the game of basketball, but in everything. Like for me, just talking to him.”