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Russell Westbrook designs Oklahoma City victory with near triple-double

Life after Kevin Durant begins with Thunder spoiling NBA debut of Sixers center Joel Embiid

Lang Whitaker

PHILADELPHIA—“Some mornings, it’s just…it’s just however I feel, that’s what I wear.”

Russell Westbrook is standing in the visitor’s locker room in the Wells Fargo Center, minutes after the Oklahoma City Thunder have defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-97, in the season opener for both teams.

As Westbrook is explaining his famous interest in fashion, he’s slipping a plaid Fear of God kilt over his black skinny jeans. He’s also wearing a yellow hooded sweatshirt that says “Paranormal,” which he says he bought in Spain because he “knew nobody else in the U.S. would wear it.”

Westbrook’s fashion sense is both as unique and familiar as his game. Westbrook posted a stat line tonight that at this point, at least for him, has become commonplace—32 points, nine assists, 12 rebounds. And after a slow start, Westbrook took over down the stretch on the offensive end, scoring nine points in the final 4:09 to help secure the Thunder win.

“I was just taking my time,” Westbrook said. “Picking the spots I wanted to get the ball at, just being patient.”

In years past, of course, Westbrook had help in the form of Kevin Durant, the former MVP and Westbrook’s longtime Thunder running mate. But with Durant moving on to Golden State this summer in free agency, the Thunder are now completely Westbrook’s team.

But that doesn’t mean Westbrook had to do it alone. The Thunder used Steven Adams and Enes Kanter together frequently, and the bigs combined to post 22 points and 17 rebounds.

“Those two guys are important to our team, and when they play together they know how to play off each other,” Westbrook said. “It’s a big thing for us. Tonight they did a good job not just on offense but defending as well, getting key stops when we needed to, rebounding the basketball as well.”

Most of the hype entering the evening centered around the debut of Philly’s Joel Embiid, who finally saw action two years after being drafted, and finished with 20 points in 22 minutes. But with the score close and the game in the balance, Westbrook was once the most singular point guard in the NBA. And that was enough for the win.

“I was just taking my time,” Westbrook said, topping the ensemble with a denim jacket and gathering his things to leave. “That’s the whole point of being patient, poised and managing the game. That’s a part of my job, is to be able to manage the game at a high level, and that’s a huge thing for me moving forward with this team, being able to manage the game and myself as well.”

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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