OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook has made a quick rise from turnover-prone rookie to NBA All-Star.
He's also learned that no matter what he does, he can't make everyone happy.
"This time of the year, it's a tough job. You kind of take the good with the bad," Westbrook said. "Sometimes, people like when you score. Sometimes they don't like when you score. Sometimes they like when you pass. So, you've got to just play."
In the playoffs, Westbrook has drawn criticism for taking more shots than NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant in each of Oklahoma City's two playoff losses. He also had seven turnovers in the Thunder's Game 1 loss against the Grizzlies.
The series is now knotted 1-1 headed into Saturday's Game 3 at Memphis.
Just don't count coach Scott Brooks among those who are hopping off and on Westbrook's bandwagon this postseason.
"It's amazing. With Russell, we analyze every possession. I do that myself when we break down the film," Brooks said Wednesday during a break in the series. "But it seems like everybody's breaking down the film — like in my meetings or in my head."
Brooks, a former NBA point guard, sees Westbrook's rise as more of a long-term endeavor. Westbrook didn't even play the point during his two seasons at UCLA, but made the switch after he was drafted fourth overall in 2008.
He took over as the starting point guard on a team that was on pace for the worst record in NBA history and ended up leading the league in turnovers, only to develop within two years into an All-Star and the Thunder's go-to guy behind Durant.
"It's not fair to him," Brooks said. "It's really not fair to him. ... He gets criticized for every bad game. He's not the only player that has a bad game. He's not going to be the only player in the future that has bad games.
"The only thing that I can say about that: Russell knows what he needs to do, and we talk to him and he's coachable and he wants to get better. He controls his improvement."
Westbrook has come to understand the new place he occupies in the basketball world. Beyond his first All-Star selection this season, he was also a contributor on the U.S. team that won the world championship last summer.
So, there is a certain expectation that he'll perform each time he steps on the floor.
"That comes along with becoming a good player in this league. Everybody wants you to do everything," Westbrook said. "I'm trying my hardest to be able to get my teammates the ball and at the same time be aggressive."
Westbrook averaged 21.9 points and 8.2 assists during the regular season. His scoring is up about three points while he's averaging two fewer assists during the postseason, feeding the assertion that he's trying to do more instead of unselfishly relying on his teammates.
"The guy is trying. That's all I care about," Brooks said. "He tries, he cares, he wants to get better and those are the issues I look at with Russell.
"He's not a traditional point guard, but who is now? I mean, Derrick Rose is the MVP of the league and he leads their team in scoring. He takes the most shots. He's good. That's how they play and that's how they win, but that's point guards now."
Just like in the opener, Westbrook again took two more shots than Durant in Game 2. Only this time, there hasn't been the same reaction that he should have passed more — because the Thunder won.
"We're in the playoffs, and he's the starting point guard for the team," guard James Harden said. "He's going to get that pressure. It's up to him to make the right decision of when to pass it and when to take the shot. He's been doing it all year, so we'll be fine."
NOTES: Both teams took the day off Wednesday after a late game the previous night. "I think it's good for us to take the day off today, come in and just take care of what we need to take care of, then (Thursday) get some good work in and then Friday," Brooks said. "I don't mind the time off." ... Brooks didn't have an update on the status of starting power forward Serge Ibaka, who said after injuring his knee and ankle in Game 2 that he hoped the time off before Game 3 would allow him to play. "I just know he twisted his ankle and bumped his knee," Brooks said. ... The Thunder held a players-only meeting Monday night at Durant's house. "For Kevin and (Kendrick Perkins) to call the team film session, I think it's great," Brooks said. "I think it shows that we are committed to playing better and if you don't play well, you have to figure out ways to get better."
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