Thunder interim coach Scott Brooks doesn’t buy into the theory rookies inevitably hit a wall during an 82-game grind. But whatever the reasons, Thunder rookie point guard Russell Westbrook’s stats have slipped the past two weeks, severely hampering his chances of winning Rookie of the Year.
Best known for his athleticism and defense, Westbrook is shooting 35.1 percent the past seven games, 31.9 percent the past five. "All guys have shooting slumps,” Brooks said. "He hasn’t shot the ball well but he’s done other things we like that he’s improving on. He’s making his teammates better. He’s passing the ball. He makes his free throws, rebounds and is playing good defense.” Take away dunks for any player, including Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, and their shooting percentage drops. For Westbrook, it’s a dramatic difference. Discount Westbrook’s 55 dunks and he’s shooting 36.5 percent for the season on non-dunks. "All rookies struggle with their shooting percentage,” Brooks said. "Players are bigger, stronger, faster. His shooting will get better. He has good form. He has to pick his spots... I don’t know if you realize it but (Michael) Jordan missed shots in his day.” Westbrook’s recent struggles extend beyond shooting. His scoring average and steals have decreased while his turnovers have increased. Brooks, at times, also has used Thabo Sefolosha on opposing All-Star point guards like Tony Parker and Deron Williams. "Defensively, we move guys around because certain players have to see different looks,” Brooks said. "There are a lot of good offensive players in this league. Sometimes they need a stronger, quicker guard on them.
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→When: 6 tonight →Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto →TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37) →Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640 Three things to know:
→The Thunder is 6-28 on the road but is 3-4 the past month with wins at Memphis, Sacramento and Minnesota. →Toronto is riding a two-game winning streak but the Raptors are 7-17 since Jan. 30, falling out of playoff contention. →It’s been more than three months since OKC played the Raptors (Dec. 19). In the first game, Desmond Mason led the Thunder with 10 rebounds. Probable Starters
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