Scott Brooks spent a portion of his post-practice obligations with the press Monday running down the ways Russell Westbrook's return makes the Thunder a better team.
The Thunder coach rattled off a long list of benefits from having his All-Star point guard back earlier than expected from two offseason knee surgeries.
It was no surprise that Brooks started with Westbrook's will to win.
“That young man is as mentally tough as I've been around,” Brooks said. “He knows what it takes to be successful, and he works extremely hard.”
With that attitude at the core of his character, Westbrook is now expected to provide a boost to nearly every aspect of the game. The Thunder anticipates Westbrook helping Kevin Durant as much as Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson as much as Serge Ibaka and, most of all, an offense that has gone from marvelous to mediocre.
“When you have your better players out, it's obviously going to be an adjustment period, and we had an adjustment period,” Brooks said. “But having Russell back makes us a better team overall.”
Take Kevin Durant, for instance. He shot just 37.1 percent in two games without Westbrook. He averaged 4.5 turnovers and struggled to surmount heightened attention from defenses. But in Westbrook, Durant now has a nonstop threat that opponents must respect.
Reggie Jackson called Westbrook a “dog” who makes everyone else comfortable and confident because of his ability to bring it every night.
“Russ is literally awake every game, all 82,” Jackson said. “It's a unique ability. He's ready to battle. He doesn't really take plays off, take days off. Just that competitiveness, that competitive spirit, that he brings to the team kind of gives us that juice that we need and makes us feel comfortable.”
Westbrook should also get Serge Ibaka going. In the first two games without Westbrook, Ibaka made just seven of 30 shots. He went 4-for-12 Sunday against Phoenix, but the two-man game with Westbrook and Ibaka is expected to soon return.