Westbrook's temper integral to his identity
BY JEFF LATZKE Associated Press
Saturday, February 02, 2013
2/02/13 at 5:58 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY - Make Russell Westbrook mad, and it's anybody's guess what will happen next.
In his rise to stardom in the NBA, Westbrook has shown off an All-Star temper to go with his unique blend of athleticism and determination.
His latest outburst came in anything but a pressure-packed situation Thursday night, when he stormed off toward the locker room after a third-quarter turnover with his Oklahoma City Thunder leading by 25.
In his fifth season in the league, the Thunder have come to understand that's just part of the Westbrook package.
Get Westbrook fired up, and he might waste a couple possessions letting off steam with ill-advised shots or unnecessary fouls. Moments later, he's using that rage to ratchet up his defensive intensity and dunk so hard he rattles the backboard. An angry Westbrook can be even better than the ordinary Westbrook, who's already a three-time All-Star.
That's the conundrum that Westbrook presents. When he finished bickering with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, slapped at a chair and headed down the tunnel toward the locker room, fellow All-Star Kevin Durant was never concerned.
"Russell is such an emotional player. I knew he would be back," Durant said, "and I knew he would play well."
Sure enough, when coach Scott Brooks put Westbrook back in to start the fourth quarter, Westbrook put the game away after Memphis had clawed back within 10 during his 8-minute benching.
Thabo Sefolosha, the target of Westbrook's rage, steered his postgame comments toward the fact that Oklahoma City won and de-emphasized the dispute.
"We can count on him every night," Sefolosha said. "He's a big, big part of what we're doing with the team. Regardless of anything, he's a big, big, big part of the team and he's an extremely talented player."