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Stephen A. says Russ shouldn’t be celebrated for making playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Stephen A. Smith is back at it criticizing Russell Westbrook.

On the heels of the Wizards’ Play-In blowout victory over the Pacers on Thursday — one that clinched Washington the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs — the longtime ESPN analyst said that star point guard shouldn’t be praised for just leading the Wizards to the playoffs.

“When it comes to Russell Westbrook, I’ve seen this guy in four conference finals. I’ve seen this guy in the NBA Finals,” Smith said. “But since Kevin Durant has departed from Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook has been out after the first round in three of the four years.”

Smith isn’t high on Washington’s hopes of upsetting Philadelphia, either, saying this will mark the fourth time in five years Westbrook doesn’t advance past the opening round of the NBA’s postseason.

This isn’t the first time Smith has knocked Westbrook for his lack of postseason success, either. Earlier this year after Westbrook turned in the first 35-point, 20-assist triple-double in league history, Smith went on First Take and said those gaudy numbers from the Wizards guard mean nothing to him anymore until he starts to win in the playoffs.

That, of course, got the attention of Westbrook, who said winning an NBA title won’t define him and that he is a “champion in life.” The next day, Smith went on another rant defending his initial comments and doubling down on criticizing Westbrook for failing to win when it matters most.

Here’s where Smith is wrong, though: Westbrook absolutely deserves to be praised for what he’s done leading this Wizards team. Two months ago, the club was 17-32 and had a higher chance of landing a top-three pick in the 2021 NBA Draft than earning a playoff berth.

The star point guard then proceeded to play at an All-NBA level, leading Washington to 16 victories in 22 games, making an improbable playoff push. Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson’s all-time triple-double record in the process and finished the season with career-best averages in rebounds and assists. The 2020-21 season was arguably Westbrook’s best outside of his 2016-17 MVP campaign.

The bottom line is this: Westbrook deserves tremendous praise for what he’s done in Washington this season, regardless of how Stephen A. Smith may feel about him.