Humble, team-first approach suits Westbrook

JON MACHOTA Special Contributor

Feb. 18, 2011

Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant are two players who get more national attention than Durant’s teammate Russell Westbrook.

Rose turned in his latest dazzling performance Thursday night for the Chicago Bulls, dropping a career-high 42 points in a win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Westbrook will always draw comparisons to Rose because the two, who play the same position, were drafted three spots apart in the 2008 NBA Draft. Rose was the top pick, and Westbrook went to Seattle at No. 4.

While Rose has received “M-V-P” chants in Chicago, Westbrook, who is averaging 22.2 points, 8.6 assists and five rebounds per outing, can sometimes be forgotten in the shadow of the league’s leading scorer, Durant.

The former UCLA Bruin doesn’t seem to have a problem with that, and neither does the person who drafted him, Thunder general manager Sam Presti.

“No one is taking credit for anticipating the level of player that he’s become,” Presti recently told USA Today. “What we can look back on and understand is our process led us to Russell because of his character, his discipline, his work ethic. And we were a team looking to add to our roster with hardworking, character-based players.

“We felt like he had considerable ability. He was the type of player that would add fiber to our organization. But anytime you draft somebody, all you’re doing is making an educated guess. Russell’s development is a credit to his work ethic.”

Westbrook has a full arsenal of tools to rip apart opposing defenses. As one of the fastest and strongest point guards in the league, he can beat defenders off the dribble or use his physical strength to attack the glass for rebounds or buckets.

Perhaps the aspect of his game that has stood out most is his humble, team-first approach in a league filled with players solely concerned about showcasing their individual talents.

Westbrook finds it difficult to talk about himself, preferring to point out what his teammates have done to help him be successful.

“They put me in this position that I’m in right now,” Westbrook told USA Today. “It’s natural for me to want to talk about them.”

Maybe he’ll get a chance to talk about himself this weekend as he returns home to Los Angeles for his first NBA All-Star Game.

Then again, he’ll probably find a way to make it about the team.

“I’ve still got a lot of room for improvement with everything,” Westbrook said. “We’ve gotten a lot better as a team. We’re playing at a good pace right now, doing a good job.”

Rose and Durant will receive more attention entering Sunday, as both will start in the 60th NBA All-Star contest, but don’t be surprised if Westbrook finds a way to get some much deserved recognition by the end of the night.