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Oklahoma City Thunder: What will Russell Westbrook's return mean for the Thunder?

Some have opined that, upon return, Russell Westbrook will need to adjust his game around the Thunder's new Kevin Durant-heavy style of play. But that's just not how Westbrook operates.
by Anthony Slater Published: February 16, 2014
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/articleid/3934511/1/pictures/2325161">Photo - Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) celebrates with Russell Westbrook during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Oklahoma City won 105-97. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) celebrates with Russell Westbrook during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Oklahoma City won 105-97. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

But the change won't all be positive. It'll come with some sacrifice.

Westbrook controls the ball for an average of 6.6 minutes per game, according to NBA.com/stats. That's easily the highest number on the Thunder and the 11th highest in the league.

That means less Jeremy Lamb shots, less Derek Fisher minutes, less Perry Jones appearances, less of a need for guys who have meant so much over the past couple months.

But such is the life on a stacked NBA roster.

“Good teams have to make sacrifices, and we've done it for a lot of years,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “It's just going to be another opportunity to embrace adjustments and sacrifice for one another.”

The most negative effect will likely be the reduction of Durant's usage. His shots will go down. His historic numbers will cool off.

And anything advocating less Durant, on the surface, would appear to be a bad idea.

But come playoff time that extra rest should help. A heavy offensive burden will be eased.

And the Thunder, in the long run, will be a better team. OKC is 22-8 without Westbrook this season and 21-4 with him.

Both fantastic records, but one better than the other.

“Whenever he's ready, we're ready,” Brooks said.

Even if it comes with some sacrifices.

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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