BOSTON – Russell Westbrook is a bit of an NBA oddity – and we’re not talking about his nightly triple-double numbers either.
When Kevin Durant took his talents to the Bay Area this summer, the thinking among many was that Westbrook would do the same.
And yet another example of when everyone’s looking for him to zig, he zags.
When others prefer to walk the beaten path of forming a super team, Westbrook goes old school and opts to blaze his own trail as the undisputed leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder who take on the Boston Celtics tonight.
As expected, he has been easily their best player.
But more than that, he’s been arguably the best player in the NBA.
The record (17-12) certainly shows his impact on winning.
And then there are the eye-popping video game numbers that most of us have never seen before.
He comes into tonight’s game averaging a triple-double of 31.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.8 assists.
But what really sets him apart from his contemporaries is his desire to be the epicenter of the Thunder’s rebuilding process in the wake of Durant’s departure.
Among the new pieces added to the mix was Victor Oladipo, currently out with a wrist injury suffered against the Celtics on Nov. 12.
Having arrived from Orlando, Oladipo has been impressed with Westbrook the player.
But the person, Oladipo says, is even better.
Which is why his decision to re-sign a long-term team with the Thunder was not surprising to Oladipo after spending some time around him as a teammate.
“He has loyalty and integrity,” Oladipo told CSNNE.com. “I’m glad I can experience this with him and do something.”
Westbrook has not shied away from the fact that he is Oklahoma City’s undisputed leader, a role he takes on with great pride with the understanding of the immense responsibility that comes with it.
That said, he doesn’t see a lot of difference between being a leader than when he played with Durant.
“I wouldn’t say … it’s the same thing,” he said. “As the point guard of your team, you have to bring it every night and have your guys follow you. That’s part of being a leader.”
And the role of being his team’s leader is one that Westbrook relishes.
“It’s very interesting, especially for me to have guys looking at you and looking up to you,” Westbrook said. “I love being the guy going out to compete at a high level and make sure my team does the same.”
But as dominant as Westbrook has been, he by no means is content with his triple-double-every-night status.
“Well for him, he’s always trying to figure out ways to improve and get better,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan. “When you’re best player has that mentality it trickles into the team. One big thing for him is he wants to be an efficient player. It takes a great deal of concentration and focus on his part. And I would say this about Russell … he watches probably as much film as any player in this league. It’s great for our younger guys to see how he prepares himself for games and the way he prepares himself for opponents. He’s always finding ways to improve.”
But as much as he works to improve his game, he seems to find just as much joy in seeing his younger teammates make personal strides as well.
“Definitely. That’s the best part of the game, to see the smiles on their faces and the breakthroughs they have as individuals,” Westbrook said. “Once you put in a lot of work and all the work you put in, pre-practice and post-practice, see it in a game, see it come to play, that’s a great feeling.”
Said Donovan: “He’s always tried to give the team confidence and believe in themselves. He’s done a great job of that leadership-wise. Him encouraging guys to be aggressive. … he’s a guy that impacts the game maybe in no other way like any other player in this league. Because he’s so rare and impacts in so many ways … when he goes out there he’s going to play to who he is.”