By Randy Renner
When Thunder head coach Scott Brooks led off media day festivities on Monday he broke some news, saying the starting center position is "open" and that veteran Kendrick Perkins and second year man Steven Adams will battle it out during camp.
He also made headlines by declaring Russell Westbrook to be "the best point guard in basketball."
When Russ came to the interview room table a few minutes later he heartily agreed with his coach.
"I do," he said, nodding in agreement. "I'm very honored to hear him say that and that's how I feel. I mean, I don't know what else to tell you."
Brooks said his opinion about Westbrook has formed over time. Westbrook said his own opinion has pretty much always been the same.
"I've felt that since I got in the league," he said. "I mean that's just my mindset. As a rookie I came in and felt like I was the best player on the floor every time I stepped on the floor. That's the way I've played since college. It's not just this year or last year."
It has taken more time for others to warm up to Westbrook's game. He's often criticized for not being a prototype point guard like say Chris Paul who is generally regarded by most experts to be the NBA's best point man.
But Russ is quickly changing those opinions. Now he's widely regarded as a Top 5 player in the NBA regardless of position. Even after three knee surgeries he had a tremendous year last season and ramped it up even more in the playoffs with averages of 26.7 points, 8.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds in 19 games.
He also registered an amazing three playoff triple-doubles. No other player had even one.
The other thing about Westbrook that can't be ignored is winning. The Thunder have won 36 playoff games with Westbrook running the offense. Paul's teams have won just 22 games.
Serge Has Embarrassing Moment
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka spent much of the summer away from Oklahoma City and even out of the United States, spending time in his native Congo and playing for the Spanish National Team in the FIBA World Cup.
So maybe he can be forgiven but still when he was asked yesterday about rookie big man Mitch McGary, Ibaka said, "Mitch McGary? Mitch McGary?" Apparently he had no idea who the Thunder's top draft pick was and hadn't even bumped into him during media day.
Chances are he knows now and will get a chance to get up close and personal with as soon as practice starts.
Ibaka also told reporters he didn't consider sitting out the World Cup games as his Thunder teammates Westbrook and Kevin Durant did.
"I just really wanted to play, it's something I'd been dreaming about since I was young so it was very important to make my dream come true."
Ibaka said he spent time in the off-season making sure the calf he injured in the playoffs last season is completely healed and he believes now it is.
"My calf is 100 percent so I'm ready to go."
Just Call Him "Stache" Adams
Thunder backup (for now) center Steven Adams created quite a buzz when he walked into media day sporting a mustache. When someone asked him how long he'd been growing it he jokes, "Oh just since this morning." He also admitted to being inspired by actor Tom Selleck.
Adams isn't ready to embrace all the talk about him beating out starting center Kendrick Perkins saying instead he still has a lot of work to do to improve his game and that he learns something from Perk almost every day.
Brooks began the day by admitting the battle between Adams and Perkins during camp will go a long way toward deciding who starts in the low post when the real games begin at the end of October.
"It's all about the team," Adams said. "whatever they're looking for. I'm just there to play to do whatever needs to be done. It's up to coach. If I'm the best option then okay, yeah, if not then I don't care."
Adams will give it his all and so will Perkins who is coming into camp about 20 pounds lighter than last season.