The Oklahoma City Whatever They Ares made their first appearance on an NBA floor yesterday and it was memorable for several reasons. First and foremost, it was the debut of Russell Westbrook. A lot of people slammed the then-Sonics personnel for drafting the UCLA product so high, but if he continues to play the way he did Monday, fans will wonder how he actually slipped to the fourth slot.
Westbrook dominated at times on both ends of the floor racking up 18 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal, while creating some open looks for Jeff Green who had a team-high with 21.
"I worked so hard to put myself in the best position possible," Westbrook said. "It didn't surprise me at all (that I got selected fourth), maybe it surprised some other people ... (being the number four pick) doesn't mean nothing now, (it's like) starting all over again now, you gotta go and show what you can do."
Whatever Westbrook does, he will be doing it in Oklahoma City, a far cry from UCLA and Los Angeles. I asked him what he knew about his new home city, he paused for a second, then smiled. "I know it costs a lot cheaper than LA."
The second thing that really stuck out about the OKC bunch was the team's uniforms. It looked as if they were an AAU team that was sponsored by the NBA. On the front of each jersey were the words Oklahoma City and a small NBA logo. The shorts only had an NBA logo on them, no mention of OKC. It was a bizarre situation, considering some of the team's personnel actually wore Seattle Sonics gear on the bench.
Still for Westbrook, it didn't matter. It was an NBA jersey. "It doesn't matter, I'm just playing" Westbrook said. "(I) just came out in whatever they gave me, I just played with."
One of the best players in the gym wasn't even in uniform on Monday.
The reigning Rookie of the Year sat on the Oklahoma City bench taking in all the action, lending some support to his young team.
His presence in the gym caught everyone's attention, but it was what he said afterwards that stuck with me most. He sounds genuinely disappointed that the Sonics moved out of Seattle. "Personally I didn't think (the move would happen) this soon ... I started in Seattle, bought a house with my mom, we moved out there, our family, that was my home, but this is part of the business, we gotta get up and move ... I'm looking forward to playing in a new city, new fans, and we'll see what happens."
I'm not saying Durant is going to hate playing in Oklahoma City, but it will be interesting to see how he re-adjusts to being in a different place for the second year in a row.
Like almost everyone else in attendance, Durant was excited to see his friend Michael Beasley take on Derrick Rose. Having just gone through his rookie season, Durant was asked if he had any advice for Beasley. "I talk to Mike a lot," Durant said. "We're like brothers, I talk to him about everything. As far as on the court (stuff), he can handle that (himself). Just off the court, things that could be thrown at him, that's where I try to (talk to him about) stuff I've been through, try to help him out as much as possible ... he's very smart, he's very mature, he gets through that stuff on his own so I really didn't have to say too much."