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A Thunder win today is great, but this team needs to learn for the future

by Jenni Carlson Modified: November 10, 2008 at 4:31 pm •  Published: November 10, 2008
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Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant walked off the Ford Center court together after Sunday night’s game.

Wish they’d spent more time together during the game.

This was a disappointing night for the Thunder. It blew a fourth-quarter lead, fumbling a great opportunity for a big-time victory and losing to Atlanta 89-85.

Almost as disappointing, though, was Westbrook sitting the bench during crunch time.

The rookie point guard threw down an explosive slam with just under 8

minutes remaining in the game. That gave him what was then a team-high 15 points.

But after a timeout, Westbrook was replaced and played less than a minute the rest of the game.

Why?

"It’s a little bit of everything,” Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It’s every aspect of the game — defense, rotations, rebounds.”

Carlesimo went on to say that part of the issue Sunday was the match-up problems posed by Atlanta. He wanted Desmond Mason, Jeff Green and Durant in the game along with a big man to counter the Hawks’ size and athleticism.

Add the fact that point guard Earl Watson was having a whale of a game himself, and Westbrook essentially became the odd man out.

Even though this was only one game, the fourth quarter was the kind of stretch that Westbrook needed. Nothing can replace experience, and right now, he needs all the on-the-job training that he can get.

Westbrook and Durant, after all, are the future of the Thunder, and there’s no time like the present to start getting them ready for it.

Fact is, this is a team building for the future. I know the players don’t like to hear that. I suspect the fans don’t like it much, either.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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