Russell Westbrook reiterated on Sunday, three days after signing a five-year extension, that he never considered leaving the Thunder.
“From day one, this is the spot I wanted to be,” Westbrook said. “The organization believed in me by surprisingly picking me No. 4. A lot of guys doubted me, but from day one this organization supported me.”
Westbrook would have become a restricted free agent if he had not agreed to a contract by Wednesday. But the Thunder's commitment to him, Westbrook said, made staying for another five seasons a no-brainer.
“I can say this for any player in the league. You want to be somewhere where you're wanted,” Westbrook said. “I wanted to be somewhere where I had great support, and this is the spot for me.”
Westbrook also said the uncertainty of his future didn't weigh heavily on him, even though negotiations dragged out and his performance at the start of the season was subpar.
“I wasn't stressing over it,” Westbrook insisted. “My agent, Sam (Presti) and Clay (Bennett) were taking care of it. My job was to go on the court each night and compete.”
Presti and coach Scott Brooks both gushed on Sunday over how far Westbrook has come so fast.
“How can you not love this guy?” Brooks asked. “The guy plays with so much passion. He plays with toughness. He plays for the team. And he's improved every month since we've had him.
“I like the fact that he wants to be coached. He understands than he's not a finished product. His family has done a great job of instilling that work ethic in him.”
Said Presti: “The guy is so resilient. It's really hard to keep him down. He just continues to come back and work. That's incredibly impressive.”
HOME, SWEET HOME FOR HARDEN
After a rocky three-game road trip, guard James Harden can only hope that a return home will bring a return to his customary productivity.
Against Boston and Washington last week, Harden averaged just nine points on 5-for-16 shooting (31.2 percent). The Thunder's sixth man salvaged something of the trip by scoring 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting with a career-high nine rebounds at New Jersey on Saturday.
In seven home games, Harden is averaging 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 52.8 shooting.
Presti on Westbrook: “Our expectations for Russ are high, and he knows this. We expect him to continue to develop, even though he's 23 years old, in a myriad of ways.”
The Thunder will honor Tyler Ryan of Edmond on Monday night as January's Devon Community Hero. On Nov. 9, 2011, Ryan, 24, was assisting a stranded motorist and lost his leg when an inattentive driver crashed into the parked car. He will be honored during the first-quarter break for his selfless and heroic act…The Pistons have lost eight of their past 10…Detroit ranks second-to-last in points per game with an 85.2-point average. The Pistons' minus-9.36 scoring differential is the fourth worst in the league.
The Thunder will return to Chesapeake Energy Arena to play Detroit on Monday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
By Darnell Mayberry