Oklahoma City Thunder: Time for Russell Westbrook to be all he can be

COMMENTARY — Here's to saying what Kendrick Perkins implied: The Christmas Day game showed what separates Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook from good and great.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 26, 2012
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photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook reacts during the final minute of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. The Heat won 103-97. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook reacts during the final minute of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. The Heat won 103-97. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Kendrick Perkins didn't call out his teammates by name.

But I'll give you one guess who the big fellow was talking to after the Thunder's disappointing loss to the Heat.

“I just feel like ... we just got to start getting back to who we are as individuals,” Perk told our man Darnell Mayberry after the Christmas Day game. “Turning off the TV and stop looking at articles on ourselves and start just losing ourselves in the team a little bit more, then the sky's the limit.

“We just got to start knowing what got us here and what each guy did to get us to this point. We just got to make sure we start knowing who we are and what we are and what we mean to this team as individuals and the rest will take care of itself.”

In other words, grow up and get over yourself.

He's looking at you, Russell Westbrook.

On the same court where he scored 43 points in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Thunder point guard reminded us Wednesday that he is still a work in progress. Reinforced, too, that if the Thunder is ever to reach the tip top of the mountain, Westbrook is the key.

He has to be better.

Good news is, he can be.

That much has been evident this season. Just think how few and far between these stinker games have become. Sure, Westbrook has been in a shooting slump of late, but because he's been doing so many other things well, his game hasn't been in a slump.

That wasn't always the case.

Used to be if Westbrook's shot was off, so was he. Now, instead of sulking, he plays tighter defense or grabs more rebounds or makes better passes.

The guy has been downright phenomenal this season.

Then came Christmas.

Westbrook had that crazy-eyed, out-of-control look that Thunder fans know all too well. He made some drives to the basket that resulted in ugly shots or uglier turnovers. He scored 21 points but took 19 shots, making only five. He committed five turnovers but managed only three assists.

He played out of sync, and as a result, so did the offense.

Worse, his defense seemed to suffer from his poor offense. Dwyane Wade broke wide open a couple of times when Westbrook was guarding him.

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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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