The NBA trade deadline came and went in February 2016, and before it did, Denver sent Randy Foye to Oklahoma City. So on a daily basis, the veteran guard got to take in the breathtaking view of the man who can cause so much triple-double trouble, Russell Westbrook.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” said Foye, who signed with the Nets this season. “He brings it every day, practice, shootarounds and games . . . That’s what impressed me the most.”
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Blizzard permitting, the Nets will face Westbrook and the Thunder on Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
They got a close-up view of the six-time All-Star point guard at Oklahoma City on Nov. 18. The 6-3 Westbrook contributed 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds as the Thunder blasted the Nets, 124-105. But point guard Jeremy Lin and forward/guard Caris LeVert were out with injuries. They have since returned. And the Nets have started to play better as a team, winning two of their last four — including Sunday’s 120-112 victory over the Knicks at Barclays Center — and going 3-4 after beginning 9-49.
Oklahoma City sits sixth in the Western Conference at 37-29, and Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, including an NBA-leading 31.9 points to go with 10.5 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game. This will be a test to see how far the 12-53 home team has come, a comparison between the Nets of November and the Nets of March.
“It is a good test,” coach Kenny Atkinson said after practice Monday at the HSS Training Center. “I’m interested how we deal with a really good team like this. It would be great to confirm that we really are on an upswing here . . .
“Obviously, Jeremy being back gives us all more confidence. So I think we’re a more confident group. I think we’re a healthier group. And I think we’re an improving group.”
Foye wishes the full group had been healthy all season, saying, “I don’t know where we’d be at, but I know we’d be much better than where we are right now.”
Right now, they’re getting rewarded more often.
“I think winning kind of brings a new attitude to us,” LeVert said, “kind of shows us the hard work is paying off.”
Westbrook passed Wilt Chamberlain on Saturday with his 32nd triple-double of the season, second behind Oscar Robertson’s single-season record of 41. “You’re talking legendary stuff,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said LeVert could get some guard duty against Westbrook because of the 6-7 rookie’s length. Isaiah Whitehead could be among those in the guarding mix, too.
“I don’t think there’s any stopping Westbrook,” Whitehead said. “It’s just about the players around him. He’s going to get what he gets.”