A star is born: Thunder's Russell Westbrook commands attention in playoffs

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Modified: April 30, 2010 at 10:00 am •  Published: April 30, 2010

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uot;I don’t want to be back home no time soon. I’m trying to go out and play as long as I can.”

At the same time, Westbrook, who as a kid idolized former Lakers great Magic Johnson, realizes what kind of impact a fantastic playoff performance can have on his career.

"The postseason is a different season,” Westbrook said. "You’ve got to separate the regular season from the postseason. Everybody tries to turn it up a notch. That’s basically what I’m trying to do as a young player while learning. I’m learning the process of this league and especially the playoffs.”

No one, it seems, should be more pleased with Westbrook’s performance this postseason than Thunder coach Scott Brooks, the man who handed Westbrook the reins just a month into his rookie season. But like any good coach, Brooks isn’t satisfied.

Brooks continues to teach. Ball movement. Ball security. And how to not take the bait of being matched up with Bryant.

"Russell’s not where we need him to be,” Brooks said. "Eventually, he’s going to get there because he puts the time and effort into it.

"He’s gotten better every month since he’s been here. And I don’t see why it should change because he works hard. He knows that he has to get better. He has a lot of skills. And he’s improved a lot in the mental part of the game...It’s going to take him another summer to have a big improvement. But he’s gotten better all year long.”

No matter what happens tonight, Westbrook will come back better after getting his first taste of playoff basketball. After having Bryant take it upon himself to stop him.

"It’s huge for him, and it’s huge for his confidence,” Collison said. "To be able to play well in the playoffs is the ultimate confidence booster for anybody. It’s such a better feeling to go home in the summer knowing you’ve played well and you played well for your team in the playoffs. I think that’ll be huge for him.”


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Game 6: Thunder vs. Lakers
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→Where: Ford Center

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More inside
Q&A: Lakers’ Pau Gasol, Page 4C

John Rohde: Brooks wasn’t star-struck in L.A., Page 5C

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