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Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook is 'locked in'

Westbrook's play over the past 10 days has been game-changing, so effective it has elicited unsolicited praise from coaches and teammates in recent days.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 3, 2012

photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City and the Utah Jazz and the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Friday,Nov. 30, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City and the Utah Jazz and the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Friday,Nov. 30, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

“I'm going to take full responsibility to come out every night making sure that we start the game off on the defensive end,” Westbrook said.

According to statistics compiled by Synergy Sports, ballhandlers in the pick-and-roll are scoring just 0.66 points per possession against Westbrook in the pick-and-roll. That ranks Westbrook 25th, but still perhaps doesn't illustrate how effective Westbrook's ball pressure, both in the half-court and the entire length of the court, has been.

Westbrook's improvement in those situations have impressed Brooks most.

“The pick-and-roll is the hardest thing to cover,” Brooks said. “There's so many teams offensively that run 50 to 60 pick-and-roll plays. So you have to be ready to guard it every time down court. And I think he's done a great job, along with the big coming out, helping to stop that ball. It's so many good offensive point guards in this league and you have to have some defensive toughness to contain those good guards.”

Brooks also has been pleased with how Westbrook has maintained his offensive aggression while increasing his defensive intensity.

“There's a handful of players that can impact the game on both ends and he's one of them,” Brooks said.

While there are still moments when Westbrook is erratic offensively, he's more than made up for those times with sheer hustle. Overall, though, Westbrook is displaying better pace and it's lead to the Thunder being the top ranked offensive team.

“I think his decision-making has been better,” Collison said. “And I think he's really understanding the tempo of the game, like when we need to run a play and when he need to push it and try to create something himself. And then defensively he's been a lot better. He's just more locked in. Hopefully we can keep it going, him and the rest of us because we've been playing really well.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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What they are saying

Assorted reaction to LeBron James being named SI's Sportsman of the Year.

SCOTT BROOKS: “It's an honor when you do receive that award. He's obviously as qualified as anybody that was up for nomination. He's one of the best players in the world, and the way he plays you like it because it's such team basketball. He's like Kevin (Durant), he can score 35 a game but he's passing, he's rebounding, he's blocking shots, he's doing the things. That's a well-deserved award.”

KEVIN DURANT: “That's good for him. He had a great year; Olympic gold medalist, MVP, won the Finals. So, yeah, he deserved it.”

THABO SEFOLOSHA: “Congratulations. Good for him.”

LeBRON JAMES: “Did I think an award like this was possible two years ago? No, I did not. I thought I would be helping a lot of kids and raise $3 million by going on TV and saying, ‘Hey, I want to play for the Miami Heat.' But it affected far more people than I imagined. I know it wasn't on the level of an injury or an addiction, but it was something I had to recover from. I had to become a better person, a better player, a better father, a better friend, a better mentor and a better leader. I've changed, and I think people have started to understand who I really am.”

PAUL FICHTENBAUM, TIME INC. SPORTS GROUP EDITOR: “This year there was an endless list of high-quality possibilities. But LeBron's stirring accomplishments on and off the court were impossible to ignore. He showed tremendous heart during times of adversity, and he delivered with relentless determination.”


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