Season in Review: #0 Russell Westbrook
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer
He averaged 26.7 points, 8.1 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals during the 19 playoff games the Thunder played this postseason, but even those impressive numbers don’t tell the full story of Russell Westbrook’s impact this season.
The emotional leader of this Thunder squad, Westbrook found ways to impact the game on all levels during the playoffs, in addition to continuing to help the team grow throughout the regular season. Despite missing 36 regular season games due to injury, Westbrook’s confidence and attitude never wavered, and he helped lead a young but experienced Thunder squad through a challenging and trying playoff run. His passion sparks the rest of his Thunder teammates, but it also propels him to new heights as a player, where his defensive intensity helped create offensive opportunities for the team.
“I thought I did a good job of just trying to find a balance,” Westbrook said. “There were definitely different times where it could be tough. I tried to find a good balance of trying to do everything to help us win, based on each series and based on what I was able to do to help us win games.”
That defensive end of the floor is where Westbrook personally will try to take the most strides forward heading into next season. The fire and focus he showed on the defensive end in the playoffs is something he wants to bring on a consistent basis for all 82 regular season games next season, as the team builds habits throughout the year in hopes of being in position to advance to the Finals again next year.
Westbrook is confident in the group the Thunder has in place, and believes the team has everything it needs to contend for a title in its locker room already. Advancing further comes down to execution, and Westbrook described that in order for he and his teammates to capitalize on postseason opportunities next year, they will all have to bring an even higher level of mental focus and basketball IQ.
“We have a lot of guys on this team that are capable of making things happen,” Westbrook explained. “Our organization has done a great job of putting us in a position to be able to win a championship every season. Once we get to that point, it’s all up to us to make it happen.”
“It’s just to come back smarter,” Westbrook said. “Coming back smarter and wiser is key for us as a unit. As players we have all the tools to be able to do what we needed to do offensively and defensively, but mentally is what is key for us and that’s the key moving forward.”