Friday marked Russell Westbrook's return to Denver after blocking two half-court shots by Nuggets mascot, Rocky, on Jan. 20, and local media played up the incident.
Denver guard Andre Iguodala was asked if Westbrook, his Team USA teammate, had become the No. 1 villain in the West.
“I'm new to the West, so I don't have as much hatred for guys as some others,” Iguodala said. “I'm a fan of guys who just go out there and play hard, and he definitely does that. He's definitely earned his stripes and he's going to have a great career.”
Does Iguodala have hatred for any players from the East?
“There's a few guys and we still have to see them a couple times this year, so I'd rather (keep quiet),” Iguodala said.
Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, who hit the game-winner with 0.2 seconds left for Friday's 105-103 victory over OKC at Pepsi Center, said he has no problem with Westbrook — or anyone else, for that matter — playing the role of villain.
“It's good for the fans,” Lawson said. “Everybody likes controversy. Everybody's going to talk about it. I feel like without that, fans aren't going to have as much fun. They're going to tell their kids about that. It creates a rivalry. You'll definitely hear the fans booing when he comes out. He's now the villain in Denver. It's fun.”
Despite being booed mercilessly throughout Friday night's game, Westbrook still finished with a season-high 38 points.
Asked how it felt to be a target, Westbrook said: “I don't think about it, I just play. On the road, our whole team is a target … not just myself.”
Iguodala was asked at length about three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, another one of his teammates from the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2010 World University Games.
Durant officially is listed at 6-foot-9, but NBA players and coaches don't believe it for a second.
“He's a 7-footer and he pretty much plays like a 2-guard,” Iguodala said. “He's so young he's still expanding his game. You see the way he's been passing the ball lately, breaking guards down off the dribble at his height just shows how gifted he really is. Not only is he gifted and blessed, he puts in the work. He loves the game.”
One of the best quotes in the NBA, Denver coach George Karl had many thoughts on the Thunder before Friday's victory. Roll tape:
* “They (the Thunder) are so long. They can be a very explosive defensive team and they don't rely on that as much as they do their offense. I think lately they have been.”
* “I watched all three (consecutive victories OKC had entering Friday's game), and all three scared the hell out of me.”
* “(Ronnie) Brewer can be a very good defensive player and I have a feeling he was brought in to defend Kobe (Bryant) and maybe (Manu) Ginobili.”
* “Fish (Derek Fisher) is just a veteran guy who is incredibly good in the locker room. My son (Coby) was with the Lakers for one year and I bet you 80 percent of his stories had Derek Fisher in about how well he controls the locker room, what he does and how he helps the coach connect with the players.”
* “All that stuff that happens in the locker room has a high level of importance on the thin line of winning a playoff series. The thin line of this game comes in the top five or six teams in basketball. Fish understands it, has been so successful in winning in that area.”
* “From a skills standpoint, he (Fisher) is going to make a big shot, he's going to get away with a defensive play, fouling or playing aggressively when you have to be aggressive. I'm sure he's going to understand what the coach wants and put that on the court and demand it in the locker room.”
* “Statistically, (Kevin) Martin does a pretty good job in compensating. I think they miss (James) Harden's defense, his size and playmaking. They're still big, bit they're not as big. Westbrook makes them big.”
* “I think a win like this tonight would be important to us because of our youthfulness. Sometimes talk is cheap, but winning a game has much more meaning and much more substance to it.”
* “I know I'm a little more into this game in playoff importance. I want it to be a playoff game. I want it to be an angry game. I want it to be an intense game. Sometimes you get that, sometimes you don't. Fortunately it's not in that stage where it has to be one way or the other.”
* “I know we respect them and love how they play. They play a lot like we play. We had a more serous shootaround than we've had in probably three weeks.”