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NBA All-Star notebook: Russell Westbrook says OKC Thunder feeling the front-runner role

Russell Westbrook on Friday embraced the pressure that now comes with the Thunder being the best team in the Western Conference at 27-7 at the All-Star break. The two-time All-Star said he likes being in the position where every team is looking to knock off the Thunder.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: February 24, 2012
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“I think people are tough on him at times,” Williams said. “I think they want him to be somebody's he's not. He's really a combo guard. He's good at what he does. He plays hard. He goes all out. I think he's a good defender. So I don't know what the controversy is.

“Maybe he's not averaging enough assists or whatever, but their team is winning. They're first in the West. That's usually the main statistic you want to see in a point guard is wins and losses.”

Westbrook said he appreciates his peers' praise.

“It's great,” Westbrook said. “All the players have a great respect for different guys. I respect other guys as well. So it's a great thing. I'm just going to continue to play.”

REACTION TO BARKLEY CRITICISM

Westbrook gave his opinion in reaction to TNT analyst Charles Barkley's opinion that the Thunder doesn't have enough scorers or a low post threat that is needed to win an NBA championship.

“I love our team, man. We have everything we need,” Westbrook said. “I don't think it's something we're missing. We got a lot of guys that can post up. Kevin, myself, Serge (Ibaka), (Kendrick Perkins).”

LEBRON ON DURANT

Durant and James worked out together for slightly less than a week over the offseason in James' hometown of Akron, Ohio. James said he didn't necessarily learn anything new about Durant but said he did see firsthand how hard of a worker Durant is.

“We both learned something from each other,” James said. “And we just tried to help each other improve throughout the summer, and it just shows why he's playing at a MVP level right now as well and why their team is on top of the Western Conference.”

The two also played a friendly game of flag football at the University of Akron, with James' team winning by seven.

“He can get a rematch,” James said. “We got one (coming). It was already in the works. He came to Akron first, so I got to go to Oklahoma City for the rematch. It'll be fun.”

Durant, however, said he's aiming for the rematch to be held in Maryland.

“I don't think I can play him again, because during the game he was making up his own rules,” Durant said. “And he had some home-cooking going on. So next time, it's going to be in my hometown in Landover, Md., hopefully at the Washington Redskins stadium. Maybe we can get the field. It's a long shot. But we'll see.”

QUOTABLE

Durant on seeking his third consecutive scoring title: “I'm not worried about that at all. I'm just worried about winning basketball games and how I can help my team win. And just figuring out how I can get better every single day. The scoring title is cool. I did that the last two years. I'm excited I did it. But that time is over. I'm just worried about winning basketball games and growing as a leader.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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