Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook gave John Wall more than he could handle in two games last season. He had a triple-double in first meeting against the Wizards and combined to score 53 points, hand out 25 assists and grab 17 rebounds in both Thunder wins.
Wall is coming off his best performance of the regular season, but will have a serious challenge on Wednesday against a player he described him as “another tough point guard.” When they met for the first time last season, in a 124-117 double-overtime loss for the Wizards, Wall was so shaken that his teammates had to scream for him to take shots with confidence late in the game.
Westbrook emerged as an all-star in his third season and is well on his way toward another trip this season, but his ascension came through gradually adding more elements to his game each season. He shot below 40 percent as a rookie, but has risen to a respectable 44.2 percent this season. But most important, he has given the Thunder the complementary star to pair with Kevin Durant.
“I think Westbrook, his development over the last few years has been phenomenal,” Coach Flip Saunders said. “He was a guy when he first came in was very one-dimensional, played because he was athletic. Now, he’s understanding the game more and able to improve his perimeter shot a lot. And he’ll be able to do so many more things and be multi-dimensional in how he plays.”
Westbrook made a dramatic leap between his second and third seasons, using the experience of playing with Team USA in the World Championships and daily battles in practice with eventual MVP Derrick Rose to become one of the league’s elite point guards.
“You got to be able to learn from your last year mistakes, what you can come back better as, and what you can do to complete your game. I just tried to come back and be better, try to find a way to help my team win. That was my main thing,” Westbrook said.
Wall is often compared with Westbrook because both are blessed with track-level speed and are extremely athletic, with a wild streak that can typically get them in trouble with turnovers. When asked his thoughts on Wall, Westbrook said, “From what I hear, he’s been playing better. He’s a good player all around.”
Westbrook said he has never tried to pattern his game after any other player and has dedicated himself to improving on his own. “I just try to watch film and learn for myself and go that route.”