Thun­der star a valu­able leader

West­brook's work with younger team­mates of­ten goes un­seen by the pub­lic

Tulsa World - - Sports - By Mad­die Lee

HOUS­TON — The ca­sual air of the in­ter­ac­tion clashed with the stakes of the game.

Lin­ger­ing be­hind the rest of their team­mates, Jerami Grant and Ter­rance Fer­gu­son leaned in as Rus­sell West­brook draped an arm over each of their shoul­ders. They looked like three friends in a buddy com­edy cook­ing up some hare-brained plan. In some ways, they were.

Thun­der coach Billy Dono­van of­ten says that West­brook's lead­er­ship goes un­seen by the pub­lic be­cause many of his teach­ing mo­ments go on be­hind the scenes. But in the mid­dle of the court dur­ing a third-quar­ter time out Satur­day, fans at the Toy­ota Cen­ter caught a glimpse of the vet­eran point guard's in­flu­ence.

“That's a part of my job,” West­brook said af­ter the Thun­der's 117-112 come­back vic­tory over the Rock­ets, “is to make sure my team, my guys, stay to­gether and stay con­fi­dent in what they're do­ing.”

By the seven-minute mark in the third quar­ter, West­brook, Paul Ge­orge and Den­nis Schroder al­ready had given their half­time pep talks — when trail­ing by 22 points at the in­ter­mis­sion, their mes­sage was, “this game is not over,” Schroder said. And Grant had just grabbed an of­fen­sive re­bound and found Fer­gu­son on the perime­ter for a 3-pointer.

That's when Hous­ton called a time­out, and West­brook pulled Grant and Fer­gu­son in for a chat.

Usu­ally con­sis­tent catch-and­shoot 3-point scor­ers, Fer­gu­son and Grant had each taken and Portland at OKC

7 p.m. Mon­day FSOK, KYAL-97.1

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