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News » Westbrook growing up in a hurry

Westbrook growing up in a hurry

Westbrook growing up in a hurry
A fan strolled into the Thunder's training facility last week seeking to score a Kevin Durant autograph.

Despite leaving empty-handed (the team frowns upon passers-by wandering in with autograph requests), the man complimented a team employee on how much better the squad has looked of late. His final words before darting out the door: "Now if we could just get a point guard."

Oklahoma City has one, folks. His name is Russell Westbrook.

But with 23 games left, the time has come for Westbrook to prove he can blossom into the team's full-time playmaker. Time to show he can make his teammates better by creating shots for them even when his aren't falling.

On too many occasions this season, Westbrook has put his head down and barreled to the rim, forcing up a shot rather than running a set to find the open man. Westbrook's poor decision-making at times has stirred skepticism among fans over whether he possesses the set-up skills needed to be a floor general. His erratic play also led to 38 percent shooting in February and a 3.9-turnover average.

But rather than reining in the No. 4 overall pick and force-feeding fundamentals, coach Scott Brooks has given Westbrook the freedom to learn on the fly. The philosophy promotes comfort and confidence on the court, but compromises sound play while suffering through growing pains.

"Russell has the ability to score. We can't take that away from him," Brooks said. "But to play the position, he has to be able to distribute. And he is getting better. It's not as consistent as it will be down the line. He's learning how to play this position, how to manage the game."

Westbrook's playmaking ability has indeed improved. He's increased his assists average from 4.1 in November to 5.1 in December to 5.5 in January to 5.9 in February.

"He's controlling the pace more," said Brooks, who is instructing Westbrook on the intricacies of the position through film sessions. "It can get better, but it's always going to be an issue with point guards with that kind of ability. He wants to continue to attack."

Thunder officials like to point out how Westbrook's averages of 15.8 points, 5.0 assists and 4.7 rebounds nearly place him among an elite list of players who are averaging at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists - Miami's Dwyane Wade, Cleveland's LeBron James, New Orleans' Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala.

Since 1990, the only rookies to pull the feat have been James, Paul, Grant Hill, Steve Francis and Anfernee Hardaway.

"Those are incredible numbers," Brooks said. "We can't expect him to be a 24-year-old point guard at age 20. He's only 60 games into his career. And he's improved a lot."


A look at players who are averaging at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Player Team Pts. Reb. Ast. Dwyane Wade Miami 29.0 5.0 7.4 LeBron James Cleveland 28.4 7.4 7.0 Kobe Bryant L.A. Lakers 27.7 5.5 5.0 Chris Paul New Orleans 21.5 5.3 11.0 Andre Iguodala Philadelphia 17.8 6.0 5.4 ON THE BUBBLE

Brandon Roy Portland 22.6 4.8 5.2 Joe Johnson Atlanta 21.4 4.3 6.0 Stephen Jackson Golden State 21.1 4.9 6.4 Vince Carter New Jersey 20.5 5.1 4.8 Caron Butler Washington 20.3 6.3 4.4 Hedo Turkoglu Orlando 17.2 5.3 4.8 Andre Miller Philadelphia 16.4 4.4 6.4 Russell Westbrook Thunder 15.8 4.7 5.0

WHAT WILL DIRK DO?Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki enters tonight's game averaging an NBA-best 43.5 points per game against the Thunder, leading the Mavs to two close victories over Oklahoma City. He makes his only Ford Center appearance this season tonight.

Date Pts. Reb. Ast. 4th qtr./OT Pts. Result Dec. 13 46 8 4 11 Mavs, 103-99 Feb. 27 41 9 2 17 Mavs, 110-108 OT

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 4, 2009


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