OKC Thunder: Thunder trio praise fans before potential departures

It remains to be seen if free agents Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin and Ronnie Brewer will return, but this season left an impression on how they felt about the team's fan support.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer Published: May 17, 2013

Will this year's postseason performances affect a player's standing on the team — good or bad?

“Let's face it, Russell's really good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He's not only one of the best point guards, he's one of the best players in the league. … We are a much better team (with Westbrook), there's no ands, ifs, buts about that. We're not an excuse team, either. I like the fact that we didn't make an excuse as a team.

“We have to evaluate what we've done all season long. Russell's a big part of what we do. He helps all of our players. But the thing that we have, we have a good mix of players that have good roles on our team that play them at a high level. … Just go down the line. Everybody on our team has a good role, an important role, that helps us win games and puts us in position to win.”

IMPORTANCE OF RUSS

Westbrook is a three-time All-Star, but did his own teammates fully realize how important he was to the team?

“Yeah, I never took Russ for granted,” center Kendrick Perkins said. “I always seen what he brought to the table. He puts so much pressure on a team it's ridiculous. He's the most athletic guy to ever play that position and what he brings to the table is crazy. I mean, he's a top-five player. (Can) you name five players that's better than Russ in the NBA right now? You can't. He should be on the first team All-NBA Team. What he average, 23 (points), five (rebounds) and eight (assists)? Something crazy. Those some great numbers.”

Sefolosha also said he was fully aware of Westbrook's importance.

“Yeah, of course,” Sefolosha said. “He is an incredible player and an incredible athlete. Being a point guard and everything that he brings to the team, you can never replace that with just a few days and not having him on the floor is tough.”

No OKC player placed the Memphis series loss solely on Westbrook's absence, however.

“We don't want to put everything on the injury,” Martin said, “but for it to happen, at the time it happened, to the type of player that it happened to, we really lost a vision when we got the news that morning before Game 3 (at Houston). It was an adjustment period where we were just out there, we were out there playing basketball. We lost the guy that has the keys to our car.”

QUOTABLE

Perkins on how Serge Ibaka responded in the playoffs: “I thought Serge really grew up. It was a few times he could have hung his head but he didn't. He just kept pushing. He put a lot of pressure on himself to start making shots, which I thought kind of hurt him in a way, but that just tells you how much he wanted to win, how much he wanted to do well.”


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