Russell Westbrook most dominant guard Brett Brown has seen in 16 NBA seasons

Russell Westbrook most dominant guard Brett Brown has seen in 16 NBA seasons

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Brett Brown has seen a lot of basketball in his life -- championship, Hall of Fame ball at that.

The 34 triple-doubles and 31.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.3 assists from Russell Westbrook this season, though, that's on another level.

"There is no guard that has been more dominant in my NBA days, 16 years of them, than the numbers that we're seeing Russell Westbrook put up," Brett Brown said at Sixers shootaround Wednesday. 

The 6-foot-3 point guard leads the NBA in scoring, ranks third in assists and 10th in rebounds. He also is first in triple-doubles and second in double-doubles (52). 

There's nothing cordial or subtle about Westbrook's feelings toward his opponents, and Brown likes it that way.

Westbrook's "with us or against us" mentality includes his feelings towards Kevin Durant for leaving the Thunder and the dismissal of Steph Curry's recent comment that he believes James Harden will win MVP.

That outlook plays into Westbrook's MVP-caliber season, the reason why the Thunder are 40-30 and sitting in the sixth spot in the Western Conference heading into Wednesday's game against the Sixers.

Brown knows the mindset needed to win a title. He appreciates the way Westbrook goes about it, even if it's different than what he experienced as a coach for the Spurs. 

"The Spurs did it with more of a -- it was a polite way to do it," Brown said. "He's not polite about it. KG (Kevin Garnett) wasn't polite about it. Kobe Bryant wasn't polite about it. It still gets back to the respect you have for that. No matter how they present it, whether it's polite or not, and it's really hard to present that endearing quality that I'm in love with in a polite way.

"So there was a different mindset because you could say (Manu) Ginobili and (Tim) Duncan had that too, but not to the demonstrative way that Russell has it, or KG, or Kobe. I say that with complete admiration. Tonight, you can just read facial expressions and body language, and you've got somebody that's knocking out historic numbers and has (dragged) his team into being in the playoffs after the departure of Kevin Durant."

On opening night, Westbrook dropped 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists against the Sixers.
Brown looks at the first three seconds of a possession as critical to defending Westbrook. There is no easy formula to restricting him, and it will be a total team effort beyond the point guards.

"So much of it is, and it's kind of cruel because it's so hard, it's like, can you keep the game in front of you?" Brown said.

"Then, can you do it without fouling? He's a master at taking his breakaway speed and reckless abandon and fearless approach and parlaying it into 10, 12, 14 free throws.

"Some of that isn't always the guy that's guarding him. It's the second line people trying to show verticality and not come over. Sometimes just through inertia, you get torpedoed in the chest and you inevitably bend a little bit. But there's a discipline with our bigs to show verticality, make him make tough shots at the rim to the point of who are the candidates that have Russell? He'll see different looks from us. ... We'll live with pull-ups, not layups."

Okafor questionable
The Sixers will find out later in the day if part of their game plan against Westbrook will include Jahlil Okafor. The big man is listed as questionable against the Thunder because of right knee soreness. He did not play Monday in Orlando.

"He looked OK but it still doesn't take him out of the questionable category," Brown said. "We'll be able to share what's going on better before the game tonight. Get him a real good workout and give everybody information after that."

Splitter takes the court
Veteran center Tiago Splitter, who hasn't played since coming over to the Sixers from the Hawks in the Ersan Ilyasova trade last month, made his first appearance with the Delaware 87ers Wednesday as his rehab from a calf strain continues.

In 14 minutes in the 87ers' win, Splitter had five points (1 for 6 FG, 3 for 3 FT) with three rebounds, two assists and a block.

"I thought he was fine," head coach Eugene Burroughs said. "The first game he's played so it's always tough when you haven't played in a while to try and get in a rhythm and get back in the flow. But I thought he did some great things, set some great screens, had some great verticality in the lane defensively and had some really good passes. A guy like that knows how to play basketball." 

Jimmy Butler-only observations for his Sixers debut

Jimmy Butler-only observations for his Sixers debut

Jimmy Butler’s debut didn’t end the way he would’ve liked, but he showed flashes of why Elton Brand made the move.

He finished with 14 points (6 of 12) in the Sixers’ 111-106 loss to the Magic Wednesday (see non-Butler observations).

Here are a few observations from Butler’s performance to hold you over before our film review Thursday.

• Early on it looked like Butler was really just trying to let the game come to him, which makes sense in his first game with the team. 

He was perhaps a little too unselfish on the Sixers’ first possession of the game. They ran him off a double screen with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and it looked like Butler had a mid-range jumper that he passed up.

But he was doing a lot of the little things that maybe not every star player does. He moved well away from the ball and was engaged even when the offensive set wasn’t meant for him.

• His first bucket was a thing of beauty. Butler and Embiid ran the two-man game much like Embiid and JJ Redick do. Embiid faked the dribble handoff and Butler made a great cut to the basket to get the easy bucket.

This is something Brett Brown will surely be taking a long look at. Keep in mind, Brown has basically had one shootaround to get Butler acclimated. As the season goes, he’ll learn what works well for Butler and the rest of the team.

• The diversity of Butler’s offensive game is impressive and it was on full display. He’s outstanding in the mid-range …

He’s also so strong finishing around the basket. You can also see how his ability to create shots is going to help the Sixers.

This play where he splits the defenders and finishes is as pretty as it gets.

• Butler has made the NBA’s All-Defensive first team four times and it’s easy to see why. Butler is so much fun to watch on defense. 

He has such quick feet and awareness. You can see how uncomfortable he makes offensive players with the pressure he puts on them. His recovery speed when he cheats in the passing lanes is also really impressive.

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Magic 111, Sixers 106: Joel Embiid has career first but Sixers lose in Jimmy Butler's debut

Magic 111, Sixers 106: Joel Embiid has career first but Sixers lose in Jimmy Butler's debut

This isn't the debut the Sixers wanted for Jimmy Butler.

The Sixers had a huge third quarter only to allow a 21-0 run in the fourth in a 111-106 loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday.

Here are observations from the brutal loss.

You can find Butler-only observations here. 

• Butler flashed a few of the reasons why Elton Brand acquired him. He made shots from the mid-range, moved well without the ball and played excellent defense. He finished with 14 points (6 of 11) in 33 minutes.

We’ll have more on Butler’s debut shortly but here's his first bucket, which came off a great cut and two-man game with Embiid.

• Joel Embiid was cooking early. He was his usual dominant self in the first half and had his best overall game of the season, recording his first career triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and a career-high 10 assists. He did so while only turning the ball over twice. He's doing an oustanding job of understanding defenses and double teams and it's made him even more dangerous.

He had a rough second half scoring wise, going 1 of 10 with just three points, but it appears that even with Butler, Embiid will be a serious MVP candidate. 

• It looks like Redick has shaken off his early-season shooting slump. With the Magic coming out hot early, Redick played a big part in keeping the Sixers in the game in the first half. The two-man game with Embiid and Redick is lethal.

He also took this ridiculous three to get the Sixers a 2-for-1 at the end of the third ... and he let the Sixers' bench know.

He finished with 22 points on 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 from three. He made a three that would've tied the game with under ten seconds left but he stepped out of bounds before making the shot.

• You have to give Fultz a ton of credit. After he threw up the oddest free throw maybe ever on Monday night in Miami, he came back and made a confident mid-range jumper on his first look of the game.

Though he was taken out of the starting lineup, he still got 21 minutes and had eight points on 4 of 6 from the field.

• Wilson Chandler started at the four and made his presence felt. This is the most spry the 31-year-old combo forward has looked this season after starting the season on the shelf with a hamstring injury.

He had 14 points.

• Ben Simmons had one of his quietest games of the season. He finished with just nine points, six assists and three rebounds. He did make two huge free throws late in the fourth quarter.

• Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic continues to haunt his old team. He finished with 30 points.

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