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Russell Westbrook looks like he's worth every penny

JENNI CARLSON COMMENTARY -- In just his second game since signing a new contract, Russell Westbrook dominated against the Pistons.
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 23, 2012

If this is how Russell Westbrook is going to play with a new contract, the Thunder might've wanted to get that deal done a few weeks ago.

He was as good as he has been all season Monday.

The Thunder point guard had his way with the lowly Pistons in a 99-79 blowout. He created good looks. He made pretty passes. He snagged big rebounds. He played stifling defense. He made great decisions.

He played like a guy motivated to prove that he's worth every penny of his new five-year, $80 million deal.

You can't always say that about players who get fat paydays.

“Some guys kind of slow down and say, ‘I've arrived, I've got a new contract, I'm not going to work on my draft every day,'” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Russell's gonna keep working.

“He's not going to stop.”

Sure doesn't look like it.

Of course, this was only his second game since Westbrook and the Thunder agreed to that long-term, high-dollar extension last Thursday. Still, all signs point to this being a positive.

Westbrook played more at ease, more in control than he has all season. He didn't have a season high in scoring. He didn't have a season low in turnovers. But he had a stat line that was impressive in every way.

The numbers: 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting, five rebounds, six assists, two turnovers.

And maybe most importantly, he set the tone for the Thunder. He scored its first basket on a rebound and put back. He snagged a rebound on the Pistons' next possession and notched an assist on an easy Kevin Durant layup in transition. On the Thunder's next possession, Westbrook broke through the Pistons' porous defense, sliced through the lane and threw down a vicious dunk.

“Just trying to keep the excitement in the game,” he said. “Just trying to keep the fans involved.”

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by Jenni Carlson
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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