Russell Westbrook wasn’t about to let Shelden Williams show him up. With 1:35 to play in the third quarter last Friday against Sacramento, Williams blocked Westbrook’s layup attempt and taunted the Thunder’s rookie point guard with a few choice words.
Five seconds later, Westbrook stormed down the lane and tried to dunk over the Kings’ burly 6-foot-9 inch power forward, drawing a foul on Williams and sending a message that he would not be intimidated. The sequence embodied the best of Westbrook this preseason. He’s been tough and tenacious, courageous enough to take on any challenge and confident enough in his abilities to believe he’ll win any battle. But the 94-85 loss to the Kings also displayed the worst in the rookie. Westbrook missed all nine of his field goal attempts, committed four fouls and three turnovers in 25 minutes. On this night, Westbrook was no match for Kings guard Bobby Brown, an undrafted rookie who scored a game-high 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting, 12 of his points coming in the decisive fourth quarter while matched up against Westbrook. It’s been that type of erratic play that has defined this preseason for Westbrook, this year’s No. 4 overall pick out of UCLA. Through five games, Westbrook is averaging 11 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.2 turnovers on just 28.5 percent shooting in 24.2 minutes per game. Despite being drafted for his defensive prowess, Westbrook has struggled early trying to contain second- and third-string guards. Brown’s performance was followed by similar efforts from Golden State’s DeMarcus Nelson (18 points, seven assists), Houston’s Aaron Brooks (20 points) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Mike Taylor (14 points, thee assists, three steals).