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Westbrook's temper part of what makes him great

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013
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Then there's the personality switch from the happy-go-lucky Westbrook who wears eyeglasses with no lenses and crazy shirts and playfully chides his teammates in the locker room into an unstoppable ball of rage.

In a recent road game at Denver, he blocked the mascot's half-court shot during the fourth quarter of a close game. The Pepsi Center crowd then booed every time he touched the ball, with Westbrook soaking it in while leading a Thunder comeback. Then, he only added to it by blocking the mascot's shot a second time.

"That's how he is," Durant said. "You want everybody to be themselves. Russell is doing a great job for us this year. You can't downplay that. He's passing the ball very well, he's communicating very well and as a point guard, that's what you need."

While Nike put together an ad campaign suggesting Durant — with a squeaky clean reputation — is "Not Nice," Westbrook can stir up hatred and criticism with any perceived misstep: He takes too many shots. He doesn't pass enough. And, of course, his attitude isn't right. Westbrook has absorbed it all while ranking in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring and the top five in assists and steals.

"Russell's an emotional guy. He plays hard," Brooks said. "He plays every night. He plays for his team every night. We can pick apart his game, like a lot of us have in the past. But Russell plays hard every night. I have no problem that guys compete every night the way he competes. If that's becoming a problem, then we're all in this for the wrong reason."

The Thunder didn't practice Friday and were traveling to Cleveland for their next game on Saturday night. Veteran Nick Collison, the team's longest-tenured player, said he didn't think anything needed to be addressed.

But as he pointed out, the Thunder are counting on Westbrook even more this season. They let locker room leaders Derek Fisher, Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey depart this offseason, leaving Westbrook and Durant to guide the ship at a relatively young age.

Immediately, they were challenged to keep the team together after Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was traded away at the start of the season in another challenge to the team's chemistry.

"The reason we've been able to keep up and go — we made a big trade earlier in the year — is because of what Russell and what Kevin have done as leaders. They've been great this year," Collison said. "They've grown up a lot, their voice with the team. And they've done it with their play, too. ... Russ in particular has grown up a lot and we're going to be fine. He's had a great year."