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OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 26, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Q. The team went through so many changes before the season, through the season. As you head into the off-season, what are you most excited about in terms of the way that you attack your work and as a leader and for yourself individually?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I think just as a team, I think the most important thing is obviously coming back and trying to be better. I mean, that's kind of the overall guard thing for each team, but I think as a team you've got to figure out what you need to do to get better at, and I think there's a lot of room for us to grow. We've got a lot of young guys, to be able to come back and be better, and that's the upside of it all. There's a lot of guys, it's their first experience, playoff experience, different situations that we were faced with this year with trades and a lot of different things, so I'm excited about it, to be able to go through a summer and hopefully a summer full of guys improving on their guys.
Q. What will you remember about this season specifically?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Just how we stuck together as a team. I think to me that's the most important part. Like I said last night, with everything happening last summer, people counted us out. They wasn't sure how many games we were going to win or how far we were going to go or whatever, but I think the group of guys, we never let that sunk in our building. We stuck together, and that's the thing I'm most proud about.
Q. You talk about improvement; what are the areas you're most focused on personally and as a team do you feel like?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Personally, I haven't thought about it. As a team, haven't really thought about that yet, either. But one thing I do know is that we've got a group of guys that love to work and want to get better, and I know the guys are going to come back better.
Q. You took on a new challenge being the sole voice and the leader for this team. Not just on the court but off, where did you challenge yourself or feel like you grew in your role?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Just each day, just making sure that I came in and wasn't making it about me. I think I alluded to, obviously with me playing and people understanding that I'm the leader from the outside looking in, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're a leader, and I truly believe that. I think there's a lot of guys that people just give them the leader because they're the best player, and that is not how it worked for me. I think you have to earn the right for people to say that you're a leader regardless of how many numbers you put up, how many points, whatever it is that you're doing. I think you have to show leadership, and I think for me that's what I was trying to do every single day, to be able to show the guys that I care about them as a person more than a player and also want them to improve as a player, as well.
Q. Is that something that was easy for you to take on that role or was that something you had to push yourself?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: It was easy because that's naturally who I am. I'm not a guy that -- I'm a guy that worries about other people, tries to find ways to help other people out, and trying to find ways to make the situation easier for everybody, and that's the best thing to make sure that everybody is happy and embrace it and enjoying the moment because it's something that us as professional athletes in basketball, we don't get this moment very often. I think you want to use every part of it and don't take it for granted.
Q. As you look to the off-season, what's it feel like knowing you're about to take on fatherhood?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Oh, great. Great.
Q. With the new CBA you get a chance, if you want, to sign a longer term deal. Is that something you want to do?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: That's something, like I said, I haven't thought about anything, obviously. Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven't even thought about that. I'm worried about making sure my wife is all right along with everything else. It doesn't really matter at this point, and that's the most important thing right now with me moving forward.
Q. Do you know how to change a diaper?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: You know what, I'm going to learn.
Q. You'll have to.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I'm going to have to. So looking forward to that, so that should be fun. It's exciting, so that's the only thing I'm worried about at the moment. You know, obviously Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.
Q. You talked late in the regular season a couple times about your folks and how important they were, family, those sorts of things. Obviously I'm sure they've been a constant influence; how big are they at this time in your life?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: It's kind of hard to say. There's nothing matched. From my brother to my wife, my mom, my dad, even my friends, tight-knit group of people that consistently are straightforward with me and understand me and understand my focus and what I want to do for myself, for the team, and I think they do an amazing job of just constantly keep making sure that I stay on path, and whenever I come off and think that I'm not doing all the things I'm supposed to be doing, they let me know about it, and I think that's the most important part about family is they're honest and they respect what I do and respect how I like to do it, and they do an amazing job of making my job easy.
Q. Michael Jordan came out to induct you into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Oscar Robertson comes out to watch you play. Can you put that in perspective, just guys of that magnitude coming out and supporting you?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Nope, honestly I can't. I never thought -- like I've said before, I've never even thought about any of those things happening, being inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, having Michael Jordan come and speak and induct me, that's something that you could never dream of, and obviously having Oscar here, Hall of Fame player, and to have him here in Oklahoma City is not just great for me, but I think it's great for the people here in Oklahoma City, to have people of that caliber here in Oklahoma City for the people, for the fans, for our team. I think it's just an unbelievable honor and it's something that I never dreamed about, and very, very thankful for.
Q. You mentioned the extension is something you haven't thought about yet. Do you have a timetable or process that you're looking at as that moment approaches?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: No. What did I just say? Like you don't care about my baby? You must not. You didn't hear that part, huh?
Q. Here's another timetable question. Are you planning to be there for the awards show in late June?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: If they invite me, I'm there. You only can go if you're invited. If they invite me, I'll go. That's all I can say. Me and Manny, we ain't got the official invite yet, so when they invite us --
Q. What's it been like watching Andre and Steven kind of grow into leadership roles on this team?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I mean, it's great to see those guys. Obviously their roles changed from this year to this year, the amount of -- not I would say pressure, but their roles obviously changed in the amount of things they have to do for our team changed, and I think to see them grow into that, to see them embrace that, it's an unbelievable thing, and I know that they want to be better and they want to continue to grow on that aspect of leadership and being able to come out and consistently play at a high level. It was good to see that.
Q. How high do you think the ceiling is for a guy like Steven Adams?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I don't know, he does so many great things for our team. At his size, he does a lot of amazing things that other guys can't do, and I constantly keep drilling that into his head and make sure he understands that I have the utmost confidence in him and his abilities to do different things and that us as a team, we don't take him for granted, the things that he does.
Q. Andre, Steven and Enes are a little bit more established in the league. What was it like for you to see a couple guys like Semaj, Jerami Grant, a second-round pick, guys that might be sort of underdogs, and watch them --
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Oh, man, that was even better, I think to have those guys embrace this whole overall experience, guys like Semaj, for him traveling overseas, going to D-League and starting a few games, being in the NBA, playing in big moments and seeing him do well, that's the most important part, to see guys do well in those moments. Jeremy, even Vic, those guys, Alex, Domas, a lot of the younger guys, to see those guys embrace the moment, do well in big games is the most important part. It's something that they can be proud of and it's something that we can be proud of as a team.
Q. How do the young guys like Abrines and Sabonis, was there anything you were particularly proud of as a leader to see the development in their game?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Just how they consistently worked. I think that's the most important regardless of how they were playing, if they were playing. All that put together, those guys came in every day and worked, was here in the mornings and working out and working on their game and trying to find a way to get better, and I think with the overall culture here and with the Thunder, those guys did a great job of coming in and making sure that they stuck to it.
Q. Was there any particular mindset that you wanted to get across to them throughout the season?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Just to make sure that they come and be ready consistent. I think for me, I wanted to let the guys know that for years and prior to this year, we won the division, we beat teams, and teams that wanted to come and beat us and we had a target on our backs and we made sure that we were prepared, and that was a part of my job, to make sure guys understood that every night teams are going to come at us, and we've got to make sure we're prepared and not just physically but mentally prepared for the challenge. I thought the guys did an amazing job of just coming out, competing every night. Obviously you're not going to win every game, but we had ourselves a great share of great team wins, road wins, home wins, and I thought we did a great job.
Q. Alex Abrines and Sabonis, they both speak Spanish. In their conversations, were you able to pick up any of the words they were using?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: No, only sometimes, but they were not allowed to speak Spanish. They needed to speak English. But no, I know very little Spanish. But they spoke English most of the time.
Q. You're always so hard on yourself and always talking about the team first, that sort of thing, but is there a moment where you'll tell your son or grandkids, I was the most incredible player that year, or are you proud of yourself?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Yeah, I mean, there's -- my thinking is a little different. I just -- it's really difficult for me to explain because I just -- my mindset, I'm always thinking about how I can -- obviously I want to be a great player and I want to win and want to have a great season and each individual player wants to do well, but that's not my sole focus. Whenever I don't accomplish the things I want to accomplish, and that's winning a championship, it's kind of like, I don't reflect on it right away where maybe down the line I might reflect on it, but for me, that's what's most important is making sure that us as a team, we win a championship. I'm going to do whatever I need to do to make sure that we have an opportunity to be able to do that or we put ourselves in position to be able to do it.
Q. In the off-season every ball player tells himself, how do I get better. With the kind of season you had, how do you get better?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: There's different things that I can improve on, just off the top of my head, just finding different ways to make my teammates better. I think there's games where I can look at the film and see how I can get my teammates better, making sure my leadership is always at top tier. I think the Jordans, the Kobes, those guys, their leadership was always at the top regardless of how they were playing, regardless of what time the game was and making sure that they had their team ready to play, and that's my biggest challenge is making sure that regardless of what's going on, making sure that our guys are ready to play every single night, and that's the main thing I'm going to work on.
Basketball-wise, I'm going to constantly keep doing the same thing and just finding ways to improve on shooting, balance and different things, and constantly keep expanding my game to where I need to, but it won't be nothing.
Q. Your shooting did improve quite a bit this season, particularly from three-putt range. How did you do it? Was it just more time? Was there a particular coach that you worked with?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I probably shot more. That's probably why. But just being in the gym, and honestly, I don't do nothing special, just kind of do the same thing that I've been doing, finding ways to make sure that the ones I do shoot are on balance and kind of making sure that I'm shooting on balance. I can live with those, and make sure that I'm constant with that.
Q. Over the summer, how in contact are you with the roster or the front office?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Well, it's kind of like going to be a first time for that, but honestly, I'm not always in the meetings or I'm not in the meetings. Sam has done an amazing job, and I trust in his abilities to be able to put guys here that want to be here for one, but I also want the championship and want the goal, and I think he's done an amazing job since being here in doing that. If he wants to talk to me about anything, then we have a relationship where we can talk and discuss a few things back and forth.
Q. It's pretty clear that physically you don't wear down, but a lot of offense put on you. Do you feel like there are things that you guys can do next year to maybe help lighten that load on you ultimately?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: My job, obviously with the lead, and our team changes, it changes a little bit. That's okay, and I think, like I said, Sam and those guys are making the decisions that's best for our team. My job is not to worry about who comes in or who's on the team and if there's going to be guys to help or guys not here to help. My job is to come out and play the cards that you're playing, and that's how I think regardless of if somebody thinks we may need help.
I honestly thought we had a team that could win just because of all the intangibles we had. We have a group of guys that's able to do a lot of things, and you guys seen games where you can see some little things, okay, like you guys have a team that can do what we -- we play with the best of the best, and I think that's how I feel. So regardless of who we have, my job is to make sure that we have a chance to win.
Q. Was there any one particular thing coming out of the postseason that you think the squad is going to be able to come back and needs to be able to work on?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Not off the top of my head. I just think that this experience is probably different for each individual person because some people it's their first time. It's different roles for different people, including myself, and I haven't really had a chance to kind of reflect on that since last night.
Q. You've had to have broad shoulders most of your career. How did it feel this season to get the cheers on the road, the MVP chants on the road and that type of thing? How was that a different experience?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: That was a little different, but like I said before, that was a surprise for me because I didn't -- obviously with everything going on with the season and our team and triple doubles and all this, the chase and all these things, it was interesting. It was kind of crazy for me. I never really -- don't know how to react to it because I obviously never experienced that, but it was definitely a blessing for me just to see fans all across the world just supporting not just me but our team. I think that was the most important thing, that our guys kind of rallied around that and people came out to see us, and that was the most important part.
Q. You referenced those games where this collection of players had great performances. Let's say this roster stays the same next year; when you look back on those games, when the team really played at its best, what were some of the hallmarks of those in your mind that sort of allowed you guys to have those games?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I mean, it was different things each game. It's tough to pinpoint one thing, but I just think the one overall thing is that we were together. We stuck with each other regardless of good or bad, and I think good teams stick together through good, through bad, don't point fingers, and always stay together, and I think that's the main thing. The basketball stuff will take care of itself, but you as a unit being together as brothers is the most important part.
Q. Last summer you and Victor Oladipo worked out together for a few weeks. Are you planning on doing that again with him?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Probably so. That's definitely most likely going to happen again, and try to get a few other guys, as well, to work out and make sure that we come back and be ready to play.
Q. You said a lot of times throughout the season that leadership was something that you worked on the most over the last summer, improving in that. Now that the season is over, how would you say that you did this year as a leader and how would you say you improved?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I think I did okay. I think I did a good job of just trying to, you know, go through it all. I think every season is going to be ups and downs. There's wins and losses. Your game can have ups and downs. Everything, family. There's a lot of different things that go on for us as players, and I think for me, that's one way I try to improve and understand that for each individual person, because you may not know what one player may be going through. They may come in the building, may be going through different things at home, and if I can sense that and have a good relationship with a player, that's more important to me than what they're doing on the basketball court because I think that just reflects if you show somebody that you care about them more as a person than the basketball player, I think that's the most important part, so I definitely feel I've grown in that aspect, and I'm proud of kind of how I handled that.
Q. You talked about this team sticking together. What do you feel like the identity of this team is moving forward?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Identity? Not sure, but I think we have a lot of great, great guys that want to get better and want to -- they know what it feels like, obviously, to be in the Playoffs and know the sacrifice, know different things that it takes to move forward. It's going to be a good summer for us to be able to figure everything out and make sure that we say close knit as a unit and come back and be hungrier and make sure we come back with a good mindset.
Q. Do you give your body a break?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: For me? Oh, for sure. For me, rest is always the biggest thing. I rest more than I do anything else because that's the most important part for me, just resting my body and my mind. I rest a lot during the season, just because it's better for my body, for me, what I bring to the table each and every night, how I play, you know, and that's how I personally feel because resting is a good thing for me just to chill out, do something else other than basketball. It's always good for me.
Q. Do you change in terms of -- you've been in the league a while now. Do you still train in the off-season the way you did --
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Same way. Same way. Consistency is a huge thing for me. I think people always ask -- just people that's obviously not in the NBA, all always ask what's the hardest thing to do as a player, and I always tell them to be consistent, and some people may think, it's easy to be consistent, but I think there's a lot of people in the league, in every job in the world, not just basketball but in life in general, I think to be able to do your job at a high level each and every day, night, it's hard to do, and that's something that I take pride in doing, to be able to do that each and every day. In life, in general, whether it's being a great husband, great family man, great brother, now great father, to be a great father, great teammate, whatever it is, I think life in general, I think that's what I try to do, and resting is a huge part of that for me, just my mind, my body, and being able to understand the things in life that's important and making sure that I take care of it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports