One-night-only lineupThunder coach Scott Brooks inserted Earl Watson into the starting lineup at point guard for the first time since Nov. 28 in an attempt to counter Chicago’s small-ball starting lineup. Russell Westbrook moved to shooting guard, and Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Nick Collison rounded out the starting unit. "It’s really just because of what they present,” Brooks said. "We wanted to be able to match their quickness and wanted to give ourselves the best chance of having a good start.”
Westbrook for ROY?Westbrook is beginning to gain more respect around the league, winning Rookie of the Month honors for December and causing many to consider the Rookie of the Year Award to be more than a two-man race between Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Memphis’ O.J. Mayo. Westbrook said he’s not overly concerned with the attention. "I’m just going to keep playing and let everything else speak for itself,” Westbrook said. "I think I belong in the conversation but I have no control over it.”
Impressions of RoseSaturday night’s lineup change prevented a head-to-head matchup between Rose, the No. 1 overall pick and Westbrook, the No. 4 overall pick. The players guarded each other only on occasion, as Watson was matched up against Rose for the majority of the game. The Thunder still came away impressed. "He’s a great player,” Watson said. "He’s real competitive.” Said Brooks, "Derrick rose is one of the better point guards, whether young or old. He’s a very talented guy who does a good job.”
Mason returns to the lineupForward Desmond Mason returned to the lineup after a sore back caused a one-game absence. Mason didn’t expect to play before the game but tested his back again just before game time and decided to play. He did not start the game for the first time in 11 contests.
Ruffin on ThunderFormer University of Tulsa standout Michael Ruffin, now a member of the Bulls, said he expects the Thunder to have a positive impact on the city of Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma. "It’ll definitely bring a little bit more to the city,” Ruffin said. "A lot of people living in Oklahoma are always complaining how they’re a little bit behind. But I think having that exposure is only going to bring more and more to the city and state.”
BrieflyAfter starting the past six games, Robert Swift was inactive and did not sit on the bench Saturday night...Rose was introduced as the starting point guard out of Chicago. He played his one college season at Memphis but chose to represent his hometown during pre-game introductions. BY DARNELL MAYBERRY