Westbrook comes of age

by

April 04, 2017
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (left) goes up for a dunk in front of New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (right) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, on Wednesday. Oklahoma City won 116-105. (AP Photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP):

Russell Westbrook has been stacking up triple-doubles like no one in half a century and producing late in games like few players in recent memory.

But the historical stats and heroics have somewhat overshadowed one other Westbrook transformation: The national perception he wasn't a good teammate.

He's been that, and then some.

"He's making big plays," Thunder centre Enes Kanter said. "That's what a big player does. He's taking a lot of responsibility and doing amazing things. And he's making everybody better around him."

There were questions about Westbrook, the teammate, when Kevin Durant left for Golden State in free agency last summer. Then the huge questions about what kind of team would the Thunder have with Westbrook as their unquestioned leader.

NEXT LEVEL GAME

Well, he has seized the moment.

He has taken his game to another level and pulled his teammates along. Whatever the team has needed a big shot , a scoring flurry , a key pass, a defensive play he has delivered.

Even without Durant to pass the ball to a four-time scoring champion Westbrook is at the same pace for assists as last season.

"As a team, we all do our part," Westbrook said. "It's not just me. I'm not just playing by myself. These guys do a lot of different things, whether they are screening or making big shots, defensive plays that allow us to get shots that we've been getting to close games. They've been doing it all season."

But it's impossible to ignore what Westbrook has done.

He needs one more triple-double to match Oscar Robertson's single-season record of 41 set during the 1961-62 season. He'll have the chance to tie tonight at home against Milwaukee, and he could potentially set the mark tomorrow in Memphis.

Oklahoma City has needed every bit of Westbrook's excel lence. The Thunder have a 31-9 record when he gets a triple-double, and a 12-24 mark when he doesn't.

All the things that have stood out about Westbrook over the years have put him in position to rewrite the record books. The electrifying dunks, his speed and raw emotion that stems from a relentless competitive drive, they are all still there.

Yet, the intangibles basketball IQ, leadership and willingness to trust his teammates are why he has risen to this level.

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