Morning Shootaround

Jan. 21 Shootaround -- More fuel for Russell Westbrook's historic season Staff

Westbrook has more fuel | Futures of Wade, Butler in Chicago might be linked | Celtics’ Thomas feeling bummed by All-Star vote

No. 1: Westbrook has more fuel — You don’t need perfect vision to see that Russell Westbrook plays with a log on his shoulder, every night, which is one reason why he’s averaging a triple-double and threatening to pull an Oscar Robertson. Therefore, how do you suspect Westbrook will turn it up another notch, now that he has motivation. As athletes are wont to do, Westbrook can use the All-Star snub — he wasn’t voted as a starter on the West — to put distance between himself and the next deserving MVP candidate. Here’s Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman providing more:

Russell Westbrook will not start the NBA All-Star Game. That’s a bummer for basketball fans. But it’s great for the Thunder, because the absurdity of Westbrook not starting will serve as fuel in the second half of the season.

Westbrook clearly is motivated by slights, even if he won’t admit it, and this is one of the great slights in recent sports history. Kevin Garnett said Thursday night on TNT that Westbrook not starting is “the league’s all-time history snub.”

NBA people from teammates (Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow, Cam Payne) to opponents (Doc Rivers, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin) have expressed bewilderment at how Westbrook could be relegated to a bench role.

The answer is easy. When you let fans vote, strange things happen.

And while Harden is having a phenomenal season and deserves every consideration as an all-star starter, he also has the Yao Ming factor on his side. Since Yao’s days with Houston, the Rockets have been hugely popular in China. The Chinese vote, too.

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No. 2: Futures of Wade, Butler in Chicago might be linked — When the Bulls decided to pair Dwyane Wade with Jimmy Butler, it was an experiment that gave no guarantees it would work. Both are similar players and even played college ball at Marquette. Well, so far, so good: Wade and Butler play off one another well and are about the best the Bulls have going for themselves at the halfway point of the season. So well, in fact, that this duo could be together as long as Wade’s body holds up. Here’s Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago with a look at Wade, Butler and their futures together:

Sources told ESPN that there continues to be debate within the organization about whether to press the button on a full-scale rebuild, and the 35-year-old Wade doesn’t sound like a man who wants to go through that at this stage of his career.

“At the end of the year, you sit back and see what the team is, what direction they’re going in,” Wade told ESPN on Wednesday night. “I would be a liar to say that I want to play on a team with all 21-year-olds. You know what I mean? And be a part of the future building. I would be a fool to say that. But you also want to be in the best position for what you think is for you at that time, too.

“… One of the main reasons I’m here is Jimmy. He’s the one who called me and got me to come here. So that’s a big part of my decision and everything else, is what Jimmy’s doing, what his future looks like and all that. And I’ve made it very clear. So I have no idea from that standpoint. You just have to wait and see and then see what works out.”

While Wade is keeping an open mind about his own future, he’s definitely watching to see what the Bulls do with Butler, who has been at the center of trade speculation for more than a year. While the Bulls would prefer not to move the 27-year-old Butler, the team understands the two-time All-Star is their most valuable asset.

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No. 3: Celtics’ Thomas feeling bummed about the snub — Isaiah Thomas has come a long way since being the last pick in the draft seven years ago to become the best player in Boston and one of the best scorers in basketball, despite standing 5-foot-9. It’s truly one of the more remarkable stories in the NBA this year, how Thomas has spent much of his life overcoming doubters. And yet another perceived slight was thrown his way when he wasn’t voted a starter for the East in the All-Star Game. The competition at guard was steep, yet Thomas felt he was deserving, and told as much to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston:

“It’s not the end of the world. I’m good. I was disappointed but those guys deserve it as well,” said Thomas, who is likely to earn his second consecutive All-Star nod when reserves are announced next week.

“I did everything I can under my control to put myself in position to be a starter so I can’t really worry about things I can’t control. … I’ll use it as motivation. I’ll keep going. I’ve got to get better. So that’s all I took out of that is: I’m not where I want to be.”

Thomas, who typically finds motivation in even the smallest of slights, was measured and composed as he talked about being passed over. He pointed out how Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double and isn’t a starter in the West. He expressed appreciation that he finished high in media and player voting and thanked the fans that voted for him despite finishing roughly 40,000 votes behind DeRozan.

“I’m trying to change it up now where I stop worrying about things I can’t control,” Thomas said. “I’ve done everything I possibly could to put myself in a position to be able to start in the All-Star Game and it didn’t happen, so I’ve just got to get back in the gym and keep working.

“Like I always say, I’m gonna just keep going. I appreciate everybody who voted for me, especially you guys, the media, showed me some love. And then my peers, my peers showed me love, too. So it hurt, but I’ll be all right. I’ll just use it as motivation.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Is CJ McCollum the midseason MVP for the Blazers over Damian Lillard? … With Chris Paul out for more than a month, Doc Rivers will spread the minutes wealth … About those Chris Bosh to the Bulls rumors: It’s news to Wade … Hornets need to step up their game if making the playoffs is the goal … Another day, another Ricky Rubio is being shopped rumor … Otto Porter is making teams pay for ignoring him on the floor … Joel Embiid for president! Well, maybe for All-Defensive team instead.