Oklahoma City Thunder: Time for Russell Westbrook to be all he can be

COMMENTARY — Here's to saying what Kendrick Perkins implied: The Christmas Day game showed what separates Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook from good and great.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 26, 2012
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photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook reacts during the final minute of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. The Heat won 103-97. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook reacts during the final minute of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. The Heat won 103-97. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

That shouldn't happen.

Then, of course, there was the final Thunder possession. Westbrook did amazing work to corral a Kevin Durant miss, then got off a three-pointer. While there is no fault in taking that shot, Westbrook was trying to draw contact instead of trying to make it. He didn't take a controlled shot with a good motion. He heaved the ball toward the goal like a medicine ball, extending his arms awkwardly and kicking his leg wildly.

When Westbrook was knocked down and no foul was called — replays showed that Wade hit him on the wrist — he yelled an expletive, pounded a scorer's table and drew a technical.

Game over.

Truth is, that leg kick might've just as easily been called a foul on Westbrook as any contact he took.

Officiating aside, though, Westbrook has got to stay under control. Not just some of the time. Not just most of the game. He has to do that all of the time.

At least against teams like the Heat.

Against the Wizards or the Hornets or some other cellar dweller, Bad Russ can come out to play and not doom the Thunder. But against the Heat — whether it be on Christmas Day or in the NBA Finals — Good Russ has to triumph.

Given the way Westbrook has improved in the past year, there is no doubt he can improve this part of his game, too.

And for this team to one day win an NBA title, it needs Westbrook to become that player. The guy who plays to his individual strengths but gets lost in the team.

That's what Perk was talking about after the game Tuesday, and as a guy who played for championship teams, he knows of what he speaks. He knows, too, that he's talking about doing something that's tough. Really tough. But it's what separates the good players from the great ones.

Russell Westbrook is on the verge of great, and once he gets there, nothing will stop the Thunder, not even the Heat.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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