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OKC Thunder guard Russell Westbrook decides to be great

By Darnell Mayberry Modified: October 25, 2009 at 9:33 am •  Published: October 25, 2009

Westbrook's offseason work produced a preseason payoff: In the Thunder's first four exhibition games, he tallied 34 assists and 10 turnovers. Carry that ratio into the season and he's in the Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Deron Williams neighborhood.

At times this preseason, he looked like a completely different player.

“It's natural right now for him,” said teammate Shaun Livingston. “I think he worked on it so much in the summer that's it's more so like a chain reaction.”

Westbrook and Thunder coach Scott Brooks trace Westbrook's ascension to January, the month he improved his averages to 5.5 assists and 2.7 turnovers. The next month he turned in his best stretch of the season with averages of 20.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 3.9 turnovers.

But stats, Brooks said, don't tell the full story. Westbrook controlled the game better, played with more patience and got the ball to his teammates in better positions to score.

“Russell's a very proud player and I like that in him,” Brooks said. “He brings that on the court every day. That's why I know that he's going to get better.”

For Second-Season Improvement?

Ready: Westbrook has looked more confident and comfortable running the team throughout the preseason. His assists were up and his turnovers were down. The second-year point guard spent his entire off-season improving his decision-making and is adamant the hard work has paid off.

For as erratic as his rookie season was, Westbrook still gave himself a lot to build on. He averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Hard to see him getting worse in his second season.

... Or not:His final stats backed up everything we saw out of Westbrook last season. He led the league in total turnovers with 274. He shot just 39 percent from the field and 27 percent from the 3-point line. Some players can drastically improve in those areas in their second season. Most cannot.

Making things more challenging for Westbrook is he's a point guard who's still learning the position on the fly. That, along with the fact that he's weeks away from turning 21, indicates he's certainly in store for many more mistakes.


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