"All year, he’s improved his all-around game,” said Thunder teammate Nenad Krstic. "He’s passing the ball better, and even if he doesn’t get assists he’s making the right plays. And I think he’s gotten so much better on defense. He’s really leading this team. You can see it in our record. We’re playing so much better, and we’re winning even the close games. I think a lot of credit belongs to him.”
Thunder general manager Sam Presti seems to have learned from what likely would have gone down as a mistake in San Antonio, where the Spurs on two occasions nearly gave up on Parker. First, San Antonio entertained the idea of trading Parker for Gary Payton. Then, the Spurs tried to lure Kidd to San Antonio as a free agent before Parker’s third season.
While some fans and media types — one prominent New York writer Monday night suggesting the Thunder would be better off trading Westbrook and Jeff Green to New Orleans for Chris Paul — continue to question Westbrook’s long-term potential, Presti has remained committed.
"I’m always feeling good with how I’m playing, regardless of what’s going on or who’s saying what,” Westbrook said. "That’s the key thing, I think, having self-confidence. When you feel good about yourself, it doesn’t really matter what everybody else is saying.”
Only 37 games into his second season, Westbrook has now evolved into one of the Thunder’s biggest competitors. He was seen (and heard by everyone in the gym) bragging about his win over rookie James Harden in the team’s traditional post-practice free-throw shooting game. Westbrook, an extremely emotional player, also has learned how to overcome a bad possession.
"There were times last year when he would have a bad play, and he would get down and it would take him a couple of minutes or a couple of possessions to regroup,” Brooks said. "This year, he pretty much plays forward.”
Imagine what Westbrook will be capable of six years from now.
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