Russell Westbrook Low Key as All-Star Campaigning Heats Up
DENVER -- Russell Westbrook doesn't want any buttons or bumper stickers distributed in an effort to get him in the NBA All-Star Game.
Then again, he might not be able to stop Kevin Durant from campaigning for him.
"If they don't put him in (the All-Star Game), it's the ultimate snub,'' Durant, the Oklahoma City forward who is almost certain to be a starter in the Feb. 20 game, said Tuesday about his teammate after the Thunder practiced at the Pepsi Center in preparation for Wednesday's game against Denver.
You won't get those type of comments out of Westbrook, though. He did some serious downplaying about possibly making his first All-Star appearance in Los Angeles, his hometown.
"Honestly, I don't really care,'' said the point guard. "To tell you the truth, it's not a big deal. You get voted in, you get voted in.''
Yeah, right. That's the word from Durant, who doesn't buy what Westbrook says.
"He wants to go,'' Durant said. "He's just saying that. That's something he really can't think about. He wants to continue to just keep playing well. He doesn't want to think about it. I'll say it for him. I want him (in the All-Star Game). I hope he makes it.''
It won't be easy even though the Thunder are tied with Utah for first in the Northwest Division at 27-14. Westbrook is 13th in the NBA in scoring with a 22.4 average, ninth in assists at 8.4 and is the most recent Western Conference Player of the Week. But there is plenty of depth in the West.
With the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and New Orleans' Chris Paul all but certain to be the starting guards, that leaves Westbrook battling San Antonio's Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, Utah's Deron Williams, Phoenix's Steve Nash and Golden State's Monta Ellis for perhaps three more guard spots. Nash and Ellis are hurt by being on losing teams, but the Spurs pair is greatly aided by San Antonio having the NBA's best record at 35-6.
"I just think the coaches will do the right thing,'' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of West coaches, who will vote for reserves, which will be announced Feb. 3, a week after the starters are named Jan. 27 by the fan vote. "They know how much a guy like Russell impacts the game. Is he playing like an All-Star? Yes, absolutely. But there's a lot of good point guards in this league. There's a lot of good, talented players that are deserving. But there's only 12 (roster spots).''
It helps Westbrook that there actually will be 13 West All-Stars. Houston's Yao Ming, who will win the fan vote at center, is out for the season due to injury and will be replaced by NBA commissioner David Stern. But Westbrook is hurt by the West's great depth at forward.
One of the West forwards will be Durant, named a reserve last season. He's humbled to be on the verge of starting his first All-Star Game.
"It'd be cool,'' said Durant, leading the NBA in scoring with a 28.4 average. "Hopefully, I'm a starter ... That would be fun, of course. That's the goal every player wants to reach.''
Durant would love to be joined on the West by Westbrook, which would mark the third different team in the past year to pair the two. They were teammates on Team USA, which took the gold medal last September at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey.
"He's an All-Star a month ago,'' Durant said of Westbrook, who has raised his scoring average from 16.1 last season. "It'd be cool to see him in it, especially with (the game) being in L.A. and him being from there ... I think for sure he'll be in there.''
Not that Westbrook cares. Then again, he later admitted he would be "thankful'' to be an All-Star and it would be "a good accomplishment.'' But he drew the line there.
"No campaigning. No nothing,'' Westbrook said of trying to get selected.
That apparently will be Durant's job.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson