Before trotting out Russell Westbrook for his first career start Saturday night, Thunder coach Scott Brooks gave the rookie point guard the same advice he offers to all his players. "You have to play hard before you play well,” Brooks said. Westbrook accomplished both against Memphis, playing a career-high 38 minutes while helping the Thunder to only its second win. But effort has never been an issue for the No. 4 overall pick. The thing to watch going forward is how effective Westbrook is now that he’s in the role many fans have longed to see him in. "This is a tough league,” Brooks warned. "Just because Russell is starting doesn’t mean he’s going to tear the league up. That usually does not happen.” Brooks isn’t just trying to temper expectations. Westbrook’s rookie mistakes are likely to become even more glaring against starting point guards than they were against reserves. Westbrook’s 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals against the Grizzlies indicate how much potential he has. Not once did he show any fear or first-start jitters. He played under control and with confidence, turning the ball over only twice and looking the part of a true floor general. The question is now can he sustain that look? As a starter, Westbrook must now run the offense and get his teammates involved more than he did at any point over the first month of the season, when he largely looked for his own scoring opportunities. "It’s different,” Westbrook admitted. "You got to come in and get the flow of the game going right and get everybody involved. I’ve been trying to work and eventually get (the starting job). But now it’s here, so I’ve just got to play my game and continue to play the way I’ve been playing.” Brooks has put Westbrook in a good position. Including Saturday’s inaugural start, Westbrook’s first six head-to-head matchups are against Memphis’ Mike Conley (twice), Charlotte’s Raymond Felton, Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, Miami’s Mario Chalmers and Golden State’s Jamal Crawford. Only Chalmers, a rookie, has a reputation for defense. Westbrook’s first true tests won’t come until a back-to-back set on Dec. 13 and 14 against Dallas’ Jason Kidd and San Antonio’s Tony Parker. "We want to see how he responds to different roles,” Brooks said. "We feel that he brings a lot of energy and a lot of intensity, and we’ve liked what he’s done coming off the bench. But (the starter) is definitely a role that, as a point guard, you are the leader on the floor and you are an extension of the coach. He has to embrace that role.” We know Westbrook will play hard. We’re about to find out if he’s ready to play well.