Marquee matchup: Thunder's Russell Westbrook vs. Bulls' Derrick Rose
Star guards to meet Wednesday night in NBA season opener.
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"They're two dynamic point guards that do so many great things for their teams on both ends of the floor," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Westbrook, though, didn't begin to turn heads until he averaged 18.8 points, 10 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 steals in 11 February games last season. Westbrook went on to become the Thunder's most reliable player against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, finishing with averages of 20.5 points, six rebounds and six assists while shooting 47.3 percent. And when Westbrook earned what many viewed as an improbable selection on the Team USA roster that won gold in this summer's FIBA World Championship, eventually stealing crunch-time minutes from Rose, the Thunder guard's star shot up.
Only now are the comparisons beginning between Westbrook and Rose. But two major factors prevent the young stars from forming a rivalry. Westbrook and Rose compete in different conferences, meaning their regular-season meetings are limited to two per year. Additionally, the two actually like each other.
Since they were drafted, Rose and Westbrook have spent summers working out together in a small high school gym in Santa Monica, Calif. Renowned trainer Rob McClanaghan conducts intense workouts that include tons of conditioning and shooting drills. Rose credits Westbrook for helping to improve his shooting. Westbrook said Rose has passed along tips on how to be craftier around the rim with layups.
"We're definitely cool and close," Westbrook said.
Don't even call them rivals on the court.
"I wouldn't call it a rivalry," Westbrook said. "I would just say both guards are trying to make their teams better... I go out every night and try to compete and try to win. I'm not trying to make it a one-on-one battle. It's my team against his team. So we're going to go out there and try to compete."
Westbrook flashed back to the draft process. He remembered not knowing where he would wind up. But after a moment of silence, Westbrook admitted where he wanted to go.
"Honestly, I was trying to be No. 1," Westbrook said.
You won't find too many folks still disappointed with how it all worked out.
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