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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

/articleid/3643035/1/pictures/1619556">Photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after hitting a shot at the end of the third quarter during the NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Oklahoma City won, 99-79. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after hitting a shot at the end of the third quarter during the NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Oklahoma City won, 99-79. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Mission accomplished.

But wait, there's more.

Westbrook and Durant got out on the break on the Thunder's next possession and teamed up for as nasty a play as you'll ever see. Westbrook threw a left-handed, wrap-around, behind-the-back pass to Durant, who converted in transition traffic.

It might've been the play of the year if not for that 20-something-foot, left-handed bounce pass Westbrook threw to Durant the other night at Washington.

Still, the pass Monday night was something special.

“I'm naturally left-handed,” Westbrook said after Monday's game, seemingly trying to deflect some of the wonder it.

OK, Russ, we'll give you that, but c'mon, that was a big-time play.

“Definitely surprised a few people,” he acknowledged.

But despite all the fireworks, the best thing about Westbrook's night was his calm, poise and focus. We've seen him play too fast or with too big a chip on his shoulder. He's not at his best when he plays like that.

Maybe getting this new contract has taken some of that pressure off him.

He has said that he doesn't feel like he was pressing early in the season because the deal hadn't gotten done, but it had to be in the back of his mind. It was his future. It was his career.

“Once you get that out of the way, you get to focus on the team you have and the season ahead of you,” Westbrook said. “It definitely is a burden off the shoulders.”

Clearly, after scoring a long-term, high-dollar contract, there's a fine line between feeling secure in your future and getting lackadaisical in your attitude. But so far, it looks like Westbrook is thriving with this new deal.

Good for Westbrook.

Good for the Thunder.

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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