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Emerging face of a franchise

by Jenni Carlson Published: June 30, 2009
Russell Westbrook spent Sunday night walking the red carpet, mugging for cameras and hanging with celebrities.

He was among the lucky few with an invite to the BET Awards. Like most star-studded events in Hollywood, it was a tough ticket to come by, but the Thunder point guard scored one.

What a difference a year makes.

The last week of June 2008, Westbrook was a head-scratching, top-five pick in the NBA Draft, but the last week of June 2009, he is an emerging face of a franchise and a rising luminary in the league.

Just think about what Westbrook has done this past week. He not only attended the BET Awards but also appeared on "Rome is Burning” and altered the future direction of his team. Truth is, he changed the future direction of several teams.

Because of Westbrook, the Thunder drafted James Harden instead of rolling the dice on Ricky Rubio.

Because of that, the draft-night decisions of several other teams changed.

Had the Thunder drafted Rubio, who knows what Minnesota might’ve done? Had the Timberwolves picked Stephen Curry or DeMar DeRozan or Brandon Jennings, who knows what that might’ve meant for the rest of the lottery teams?

At the very least, we know what would’ve happened had the Thunder drafted Rubio; everyone in Oklahoma City would be tearing out their hair. First, Rubio wanted to play in the NBA. Now, he might want to spend another year or two playing in Europe. The kid might become the greatest point guard that the NBA has ever seen, but right now, he is a big headache.

Perhaps Sam Presti knew that. Then again, maybe the Thunder general manager simply knew the team already has the point guard of the future.

Just so happens he’s also the point guard of the here and now.

Westbrook has made quite the ascension. When David Stern stepped to the microphone and announced that the franchise formerly known as the Sonics had selected Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall pick in 2008 NBA Draft, the reaction was universal.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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