Westbrook's temper part of what makes him great
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Make Russell Westbrook mad, and it's anybody's guess what will happen next.
In his rise to stardom in the NBA, Westbrook has shown off an All-Star temper to go with his unique blend of athleticism and determination.
His latest outburst came in anything but a pressure-packed situation Thursday night, when he snapped at teammates and stormed off toward the locker room after a third-quarter turnover with his Oklahoma City Thunder leading by 25.
In his fifth season in the league, the Thunder have come to understand that's just part of the Westbrook package. He plays with a permanent chip on his shoulder, and it's part of what makes him a great player.
Get Westbrook fired up, and he might waste a couple possessions letting off steam with ill-advised shots or unnecessary fouls. Moments later, he's using that rage to ratchet up his defensive intensity and dunk so hard he rattles the backboard. An angry Westbrook can be even better than the ordinary Westbrook, who's already a three-time All-Star.
That's the conundrum that Westbrook presents. When he finished bickering with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, slapped at a chair and headed down the tunnel toward the locker room, fellow All-Star Kevin Durant was never concerned.
"Russell is such an emotional player. I knew he would be back," Durant said, "and I knew he would play well."
Sure enough, when coach Scott Brooks finally put Westbrook back in to start the fourth quarter, Westbrook made the key plays that put the game away after Memphis had clawed back within 10 during his 8-minute benching.
The only concern for Oklahoma City is whether his tantrums will fracture chemistry at some point and keep the team from winning an NBA championship.
Thabo Sefolosha, the target of Westbrook's rage this time, acted as though "nothing really happened" and steered his postgame comments toward the fact that Oklahoma City won and deemphasized the dispute.
"We can count on him every night," Sefolosha said. "He's a big, big part of what we're doing with the team. Regardless of anything, he's a big, big, big part of the team and he's an extremely talented player."
Durant considered it part of the game — even if you don't see an All-Star abandoning his team on a regular basis.
"Everybody's going to have disagreements in this league," Durant said. "You're dealing with so many different emotions on this team. It's probably our third or fourth one throughout the whole year, and I'd say that's pretty good for us.
"We've just got to continue to keep helping each other, keep talking to each other and we'll be OK," Durant added.
In brief comments, Westbrook called it a "miscommunication" and said he can control his temper like a man, and that's what he did during the game. He wouldn't talk about why he went as far as leaving the bench.
This was only his latest episode. Sometimes what he thinks is a blown call gets him enraged to the point he gets a technical foul, and then his blood really gets boiling. Sometimes it's the opposite team that gets him going.
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