Singler starts in debut with Thunder
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After a busy week of roster shuffling, Russell Westbook finally got his first look at his new teammates on the floor, including former South Medford star Kyle Singler.
When asked how the Thunder might look once players like Singler, Enes Kanter and D.J. Augustin get acquainted to the system and Kevin Durant and Steven Adams return to the lineup from injuries, Westbook couldn't help but break into a wide smile.
"Uh oh," Westbrook said, as if sending a message to the rest of the league.
With Durant resting his foot, Westbrook continued his hot play with 33 points and 10 assists, Serge Ibaka and Kanter added double-doubles and the Thunder defeated the Charlotte Hornets 110-103 on Saturday night for their fifth straight win.
"We feel confident with what we have as a unit, especially with the great pieces we have," Westbrook said. "Once we get everybody healthy and rolling we are going to be tough to beat. For now we have to come in every night and take care of business."
Singler, who was traded from the Detroit Pistons on Thursday along with Agustin, started in place of Durant and played 18 minutes. He had six points — coming on 2-for-4 3-point shooting — two rebounds and an assist.
Prior to the game, Singler told Darnell Mayberry, who covers the Thunder for The Oklahoman, that it was a fast turnaround.
"It's been a quick few hours," said Singler. "But it's a lot of mixed emotions for me. When I first heard the news, I was pretty shocked. It was right after we had practice. So it kind of happened quick for me and D.J. ... I had to pack up some things and then took an early morning flight to OKC."
While Singler had a role Saturday, it was another stellar night for Westbrook. The point guard was coming off a 34-point, 10-rebound game Thursday against the Mavericks.
"Russell's been a leader for many, many years and he's done a great job of doing that," coach Scott Brooks said. "He understands the situation and he understands that we have a lot of new guys. His communicating on the court, at halftime, during timeouts, was great. He's a leader and guys listen to him."
Westbrook was 12 of 27 from the field and a perfect 9 of 9 from the foul line, stretching his streak of consecutive foul shots made to 43.
Ibaka had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Kanter had 10 points and 13 rebounds in his first game with the Thunder, who have won nine straight against Charlotte and moved five games above .500 for the first time this season.
Augustin had 12 points, including a key 3-pointer in the final two minutes on a dish from Westbrook.
The Thunder dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Hornets 59-41 and had 20 second-chance points. Kanter had five offensive rebounds.
Westbrook's latest big night overshadowed Mo Williams' stellar debut for the Hornets. The veteran point guard got the start over Brian Roberts and had 24 points and 12 assists after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota. He was 5 of 10 from beyond the arc, and reached 1,000 career 3-pointers.
Al Jefferson had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a season-high 20 points for Charlotte, which has lost four straight.