Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks has always said that he judges rookie Russell Westbrook’s development on a month-to-month basis, not by the game or the week. With that said, the Thunder coaching staff has seen steady improvements in Westbrook’s game since day one. It’s one way to explain why he captured a pair of Rookie of the Month awards this season, because Westbrook never had anything handed to him.
He didn’t crack the starting lineup on his high school basketball team until his junior year. He wasn’t a member of the UCLA Bruins’ starting five until his sophomore season. And he started his rookie season here coming off the bench.
So far, the reigning Pacific 10 Conference defensive player of the year has shown flashes of everything.
His defense, athleticism and quickness are qualities that helped him land on the radar of NBA scouts. Those traits have been on display every night.
Westbrook has an uncanny way of getting to the basket, as if he’s connected to the hoop by an invincible string, a human yo-yo if you will, that’s seemingly always jerked toward the cylinder.
His sudden bursts of explosiveness make him look like a slingshot. Or when he’s navigating his way through a crowded lane surrounded by men who are at least six inches his height, Westbrook resembles a human pinball that caroms and ricochets off one defender to the next in a rapid ascent to the jackpot.
His man-to-man defense can be something taken from the page of a “How To” manual.
Westbrook, chosen with the No. 4 overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft, was also selected to participate in the Rookie Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend.
As the season has progressed, Brooks has seen significant improvements to Westbrook’s leadership and playmaking skills. His scoring might have dipped toward the season, but his assists were steady and both his clock management and late-game decision-making were noticeably better.
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