Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan insists his team will not become all about Russell Westbrook on offense after losing Kevin Durant during the offseason.
Westbrook signed a new three-year, $85.7 million contract extension with the Thunder in the aftermath of Durant’s departure to the Golden State Warriors, having also traded Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic.
The superstar point-guard averaged 28.1 PPG during the 2014/15 season – when Durant missed 55 games of the season – but agonisingly missed out on the playoffs after putting the team on his back in the absence of his partner in crime.
Despite Westbrook’s explosion that season, coach Donovan says there will be no repeat from his best player this upcoming year, believing it will instead be more of a team effort.
“I think for Russell, he tried to put the team on his back and say ‘OK, I’ve got to get us to the playoffs,” Donovan said.
“I think because we’re starting out without those players available, we’ve got some time to evolve and develop a style of play and a system, and certainly he’s going to be the catalyst and the key to it.
“I think a lot of times what people can look to or point to is when you have Serge [Ibaka] leaving and obviously Kevin leaving is this idea that maybe Russell now takes over more, and I think that he really understands that he’s got to make everybody around him better.”
Westbrook averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game during the regular season last year – almost averaging a triple double in the process – as OKC made it to the Western Conference Finals, losing in game seven to the Warriors having lead 3-1.
Donovan went on to praise Westbrook’s mentality and believes he’s in a good way coming into the new season.
“The first thing about Russell, being around him, is he wants to win at the highest level,” Donovan added.
“I think the second thing about him is amazing, being around him he’s extremely bright and he’s smart and he’s got a great feel. And the third thing is he’s very, very well prepared.”