Feb. 15, 2013


HOUSTON -- Being named an All-Star is never a given, and that’s why this year the two Thunder players selected are taken nothing for granted.

Four-time selection Kevin Durant and three-time selection Russell Westbrook hit the ground running here on Friday in Houston at the 2013 All-Star Weekend, starting their busy slate throughout the three-day adventure. They will be representing the Oklahoma City and the Western Conference in the All-Star Game on Sunday night, but with all of the NBA’s eyes focused on this weekend, there are plenty of other activities going on to keep the two Thunder leaders occupied.

Over the years, Westbrook and Durant have shared many, many things. Sharing losses in that first difficult season in Oklahoma City gave them a unique closeness that has paid dividends and made them brothers over the past five years. They’ve shared a Western Conference championship, Gold Medals in the Olympics and the love and loyalty of Oklahoma City. Getting to share all of those things, plus All Star Weekend with one another and with the Thunder as whole, is always a treat.

“It’s great,” Westbrook said. “Me and Kevin are close. It’s a great opportunity for us to come represent our city, our fans, our team and coaching staff… We like to create a team concept around Oklahoma City, and we try to keep it that way.”

Friday afternoon, after all of the players who are competing in All-Star Weekend addressed the media, the duo traveled out into the Houston community to make an impact. Durant and Westbrook went and visited the Houston Food Bank as a part of the NBA Cares Day of Service. The Thunder takes community service extremely seriously back in Oklahoma City, so it should be no surprise that they made an extra effort to be engaging, fun and focused on doing everything they could in the time they had this afternoon.

“It’s all about giving back to the community,” Durant said. “Just to show the community of Houston that we care. Coming back and giving back is something that we love to do. It’s always good to show people that you really care about them.”

On Friday night, Westbrook, like Durant did last year, got a taste for what being a coach can really feel like when he took the reins for one of the two Celebrity All-Star teams. Unfortunately his East squad fell short to James Harden’s West team 58-38, but Westbrook clearly had a ton of fun and learned what it was like to be on the other side of a coaching huddle. Fortunately he had a teammate, Serge Ibaka, in attendance to cheer him on and support him from one row behind the bench.

The fact that Ibaka would take time out of his free All-Star Weekend to hang with Westbrook and simply be there for him speaks volumes about the Thunder program and everything it represents. Those gestures, though seemingly small, mean quite a bit in the grand scheme of team chemistry, unity and the organization’s overall culture of success through togetherness.

That commitment to team ideals and processes is what has made Westbrook and Durant two of the top players in the league, and what propels them to improve individually while helping the rest of the organization develop as well.

“It was great, it just shows how our team is,” Westbrook said. “They come out and support us regardless of what we’re doing. It was good to see him out here.”