If you pay close attention, you’ll notice a considerable shift in the criticism of OKC Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook: it has died down almost completely. That’s because Russ is playing smarter, and to a degree, slower. Kevin Durant appreciates the way his partner is approaching the game this season. Per the Oklahoman: “In his fifth season, Westbrook’s assists are at a career high while his turnovers are down to a career low. He’s getting teammates involved with regularity and has led the Thunder’s turnaround from the league’s worst passing team to one that now ranks sixth. ‘I’m doing a good job,’ Westbrook said. ‘I always can do better. But we’re winning. That’s the most important part.’ Through 16 games, Westbrook is averaging 17.9 shots, down from 19.2 per game last season. After averaging just 5.5 assists a year ago, Westbrook is now dishing 8.6 per game. [...] ‘He’s just slowing down. Taking his time,’ said Kevin Durant. ‘As you start to grow in this league, the game starts to slow down for you a little bit. You start to see things earlier than you would the first or second year. So he’s just getting everybody involved … He’s sacrificing shots for himself to mix it around for the whole team. That’s what great point guards do and he’s having a helluva season.’ Westbrook defiantly insists he isn’t doing anything different. ‘Guys are just making shots,’ he said. “The only way you get assists is if guys make shots.’ [...] Led by Westbrook, the Thunder is averaging 22.9 assists after finishing at only 18.5 last year. As a result, four players, Westbrook, Durant, Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka, are averaging at least 15 points. It’s a more balanced attack that has made the Thunder tougher to defend. [...] Though much of the improvement can be attributed to Westbrook, few would be surprised at his reaction when asked if he feels he gets the credit he deserves as a passer. ‘Nah, I honestly don’t even care to tell you the truth,’ he said.”