The OKC Thunder appeared to be doomed earlier this season, when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook went down for a significant chunk of games.

It appeared unlikely that the Thunder could bounce back in the brutal Western Conference, and their title chances seemed quite slim.

Both stars are back, and Westbrook in particular has been balling like an MVP candidate (while leading OKC to merely ½ game out a Playoff spot.) The explosive point guard’s goal is to be considered the NBA’s best defender.

Per USA Today:

“I defend every night but I told myself in the summer time that I really needed to lock back in defensively and try to be the best defensive player in the league,” Westbrook said. “I think if you’re going to be one of the best players to do it in this game you’ve got to be able to do it on both ends. That’s just my opinion, and that’s how I felt. So every night, regardless of who we’re playing or who it is, my job is to lock down and to help my team. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

 

“(The defense) is important man. For us to win games, we’ve got to defend. We can score with the best of them; we can do that every night. But I think defense is something that we’ve got to take pride in as a unit. It starts with me, and my job is to be able to come out and set the tone defensively and kind of keep going from there.”

 

“I never had a doubt from Day One. I constantly kept saying that two weeks ago, just come in every day and keep working at it. There was no way we were going to win 10 games in one night. We had to come in every day and be consistent with what we were doing as a team. We knew we were getting guys back and getting guys healthy. As we continue to find our rhythm, we’re going to continue to get better and better. I never had one doubt in my mind that we’d put ourselves in the position to get into the playoffs.”