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Russell Westbrook Bringing The Pain For Thunder

Glenn Minnis

Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.

You’re almost tempted to say it’s the mask, but the real is Russell Westbrook has been terrorizing NBA foes long before he started donning the Hannibal Lecter mask that shields his swollen face.

The scariest thing is even after a run of four straight games with at least 39 points and four consecutive triple-doubles, when you witness the wonder of Westbrook you walk away convinced the Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star guard is capable of even more. For the entire month of February, the Western Conference’s Player of the Month averaged 31.1 points, 10.3 assists, and 9.1 rebounds.

Westbrook’s last week has produced a run brilliant enough to evoke memories of Michael Jordan and comparisons to Wilt Chamberlain, the last two players to post numbers even remotely as dominant. It’s also prompted anew the question of who do the Thunder give the ball to when Kevin Durant returns from his latest foot injury just before what’s expected to be OKC’s all-out playoff push?

Only a run the likes of Westbrook’s streak of at least 30 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds over his last 10 games could prompt what otherwise would be outlandish considerations where someone as lethal as the reigning league MVP Durant is concerned.

But the Thunder’s masked hero’s play has been just that otherworldly for much of the season , especially since he bagged NBA All-Star Game MVP honors in New York City nearly a month ago. It’s almost as if Westbrook’s hoops IQ has finally caught up with all his athleticism and raw ability.

Dominant as he’s been, that transformation becomes even more apparent when you now hear Russell Westbrook talk the game. “I’m aware if we’re winning or not,” he said. “That’s the most important part throughout the game.”

That and the Thunder ultimately finding a way to keep both Westbrook and Durant maximally engaged. On that potentially touchy subject, again Westbrook has taken great pains to say all the right things.

“Not at all,” he recently told Dan Patrick when asked if he might someday consider bolting the Thunder, a la James Harden, for the chance to be his team’s first-option all the time and not be forced to always have to share the spotlight with Durant.

“Kevin is one of the best players in the world, man,” he added. “I love the position I’m in right now.”

Easy for him to say, he doesn’t have to worry about having to try to stop Russell Westbrook.