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Oklahoma City Thunder: Did the 'real' Russell Westbrook just stand up?

COMMENTARY — The Thunder point guard spoke for the first time since season-ending surgery. Here's why the real Russell Westbrook could be this one he let the public see Thursday, the guy wearing a cast on his leg and a smile on his face.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 9, 2013

He looked like Russell Westbrook. He sounded like Russell Westbrook. But I'm not convinced.

Too much smiling. Too much introspection. Too much charm.

Westbrook sat down Thursday morning for a 17-minute interview with the Thunder press corps, his first public comments since the knee injury two weeks ago that required season-ending surgery.

And Westbrook could not have been more engaging. The guy who never met a chip he couldn't strap to his shoulder went all Dale Carnegie.

Westbrook was pleasant. Even insightful. Like this:

“Getting an MRI is always scary because it's always something. I feel like every time somebody gets an MRI they always come back with some bad news. So it was stressful, and once I got the MRI, then things got real. I had to figure out what I needed to do.”

Westbrook never is that descriptive when asked how he got around Tony Parker.

Did those surgeons in Vail do more than repair his meniscus? Did they cut the edge off his personality? Did the Grinch find a heart on the mountain?

“Wow,” said Scotty Brooks, when told of the personality transplant. “Come on.”

Foreman Scott thought I was kidding.

But scout's honor. Westbrook was light-hearted, agreeable and maybe even sweet, which will come as news to everyone from Goran Dragic to the Nugget mascot.

So, has the knee injury changed Westbrook?

The Thunder point guard played angry and seemed to live angry. If not angry, at least surly.

I mean, when Westbrook stormed off the bench and back to the locker room in the middle of a game in January? That was ignited because Westbrook was incensed by teammate Thabo Sefolosha. Who gets mad at the Swiss?

I've seen Westbrook bully a writer who wasn't even talking to Westbrook or anyone else. Westbrook seems to need an inner rage.

Of course, the Thunder brass swears by Westbrook. Says he's misunderstood. Says he's not really who he comes across as in the public marketplace.

When I described Westbrook's demeanor Thursday, Brooks said, “That's the Russ that we know.”

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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