West All-Stars Take to Practice Court

ORLANDO -- Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks is used to his roster back in Oklahoma City, a team he has helped guide to a 27-7 start.

Here in Orlando, in his weekend role as the head coach of the Western Conference All-Stars, Brooks and his staff are coaching an entirely different set of players, though there are two familiar faces -- Thunder forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook.

“It’s just a blessing to be among some of the best players in the league right now,” Durant said following practice Saturday morning. “Just to see these guys, it makes me feel good that I’m a part of this group. I just hope to maintain this level for the rest of my career.”

The rest of the Western Conference team includes the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum; the Clippers' Chris Paul and Blake Griffin; Tony Parker (Spurs), Kevin Love (Timberwolves), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies), LaMarcus Aldridge (Trail Blazers), Steve Nash (Suns) and Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks). The practice wasn’t as high-intensity as a normal Thunder practice, but Brooks did lead the Western All-Stars through a few offensive sets, directing traffic so that Durant got a 3-point shot attempt and Westbrook found Gasol in the post. It was a fun event for the fans at Jam Session in Orlando’s Convention Center.

The weekend has been a whirlwind for the Thunder contingent, considering they didn’t arrive in Orlando until early Friday morning, only hours after its victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s always going to be crazy, especially being here at All-Star,” Westbrook said. “I got a little rest, but it’s fun to be here. … This year is a lot quicker. It happened so fast. (I’m excited for) all of it, the Saturday night event is always fun.”

Westbrook will be competing in the Skills Challenge and Durant will follow in the 3-point shooting contest during the NBA’s All-Star Saturday Night. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Central exclusively on TNT.

On Sunday, Durant and Westbrook will join their Western Conference colleagues in the 61st All-Star Game, but both players still couldn’t let themselves forget about their Thunder teammates and what they have helped build in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook said that the Thunder’s ability to win games in a variety of styles, like the fast-paced win over the Nuggets and a slower-tempo game like the win over the Lakers, is evidence of a team that is continuing to grow. Durant cited team chemistry and general attitude as two keys that have helped the Thunder be successful thus far and will continue to help it improve in the future.

“We have a good mixture of guys,” Durant said. “We’re a confident group. We’re not cocky, but we’re confident and we know that it’s going to be tough to get back to the playoffs.”