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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 has other witnesses. My cousin teaches at U.S. Grant High School. She told me that when Westbrook and three teammates made a Thunder community appearance at the school, the three other players were fine, nothing wrong with their attitude or actions, but that Westbrook was fantastic. Interacted with the kids like he grew up on their street. Stayed longer than necessary. Really seemed interested in making an impact.

So who knows what drives Westbrook? Maybe building a façade and inventing enemies fuels his engine. Maybe he believes letting the media – and therefore the masses – know anything about him will impede his desire to the best. And Westbrook's NBA ascent to very near that summit has been mighty impressive.

“I'm going to have to talk to him,” Brooks said of the Extreme Makeover: Westbrook edition. “I don't like that.”

Westbrook has removed the mask very few times in five Oklahoma City seasons. He let an ESPN magazine writer use fashion to peel back a little crust.

Heck, Westbrook didn't even crack when Thunder fans serenaded him in December 2011 with heartfelt chants of “Russ-ell, Russ-ell,” after a particular rough stretch of play. Didn't acknowledge the crowd. Kevin Durant did it for Westbrook.

But there Westbrook sat Thursday with no pretense. Maybe with no season to play, no games in which to become a destructive force for the opposition, Westbrook has no motivation to be surly. Maybe basketball brings to life Mister Grinch.

Maybe the Thunder brass is right. Maybe the guy sitting at the table with a cast on his leg and a smile on his face is the real Russell Westbrook.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at