No Change in Westbrook's Routine, Despite Early Challenges

If you think Russell Westbrook feels any pressure during the first two weeks of the regular season, think again.

“I don’t really put pressure on myself to be like, ‘Well, I’m playing such and such tonight, so I’ve got to do this,’ ” Westbrook said. “I do the same thing every game, same routine. I just go out and play.”

Westbrook has already gone up against Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey and Utah’s Deron Williams through the season’s first three games, and in the process has helped guide the Thunder to a 2-1 start. Westbrook’s next three counterparts are just as talented in the L.A. Clippers’ Baron Davis (questionable for Wednesday's game), Portland’s Andre Miller and Boston’s Rajon Rondo, who leads the league in assists at 16.7 per game.

So come Monday, Westbrook will most likely have gone up against a trio of All Stars, a physically imposing guard in Stuckey, a crafty guard in Davis and a savvy veteran in Miller.

Sitting at his locker stall before Sunday’s game against Utah, this was news to Westbrook.

“I never paid any attention to it until you all said it today,” he said. “Whoever the team is, Utah, Boston, New Jersey, Miami, we’ve just got to be ready to play as a team and go from there.”

As the Thunder’s offense has continued to come into its own, Westbrook said he’s learning how and when to get his teammates involved while maintaining a certain level of aggressiveness.

Through the season’s first three games, Westbrook has used his speed and strength to his advantage, giving the Thunder’s offense a jolt with his dribble penetration and ability to get to the free-throw line, where he’s gone 29-for-31 so far. Westbrook has averaged 22.3 points, 7.3 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 34 minutes a game.

“He’s taking the challenge,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. “Russ is a competitive guy. Whoever’s across that floor, he’s going to go after him and he’s going to try to get after him on the defensive end.”

Westbrook said that he doesn’t discriminate; a third-year point guard, he said he respects every point guard he faces. He also downplays any individual match-up, even though he’s provided an impact on the defensive end so far. Westbrook had a pair of steals in each of the first two games and four against Utah. He also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in the season-opener against the Bulls.

“We play team defense,” he said, “and that will get us the win.”

It’s team defense that got the job done against the Clippers, Portland and Boston last season, teams the Thunder finished a combined 4-4 against. But Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said it takes a certain mentality and effort to get the job done on a nightly basis as a point guard. And Westbrook has it.

”You have to have the talent and be able to match up with all the other talented players in the league, but you have to have the toughness,” Brooks said. “Most teams have enough talent to win but you still have to have that toughness to go along with that talent. At the point guard you’re talking every possession is critical. You’re either guarding the ball or bringing the ball up and you have to make a statement every time down court.”

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