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Russell Westbrook says return to Oklahoma City made him feel 'like I was home'

Associated Press

Friday 10 January 2020 09:37, UK

Russell Westbrook gestures to the crowd in Oklahoma City 2:55
Russell Westbrook said the warm reception he received in his return to Oklahoma City made him feel like he was home

Russell Westbrook said the rapturous reception he received from the Thunder fans on his return to Oklahoma City made him 'feel like I was home'.

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Oklahoma City spoiled Westbrook's return to the arena where he became a league MVP and two-time scoring champion for the Thunder before being traded to the Houston Rockets last summer for Chris Paul and draft picks.

Westbrook scored a game-high 34 points, but the Thunder rolled to a resounding 113-92 win.

Russell Westbrook smiles as he watches a video tribute prior to Houston's game at Oklahoma City 2:44
Russell Westbrook received an emotional and rapturous welcome on his return to Oklahoma City

The Thunder fans remember Westbrook as the star who stayed after Kevin Durant left for then-rival Golden State in 2016, and they showered him with appreciation before the game.

There was a tribute video, then loud cheers as he was introduced with enthusiasm, in the same manner as a home Thunder player. The crowd stood, cheered loudly and even chanted "M-V-P" as the announcer moved on to other players.

Westbrook even ran over to a corner of the court and exhorted the crowd before the tip, just like he did when he played for the Thunder.

"Some things you can't put into words," Westbrook said.

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"I've been here for so long and so many great memories, great people. The absolute best fans in the world because they come with it, and tonight they came with it.

"The organisation, they do an amazing job of making you feel at home and I felt like I was home."

Chris Paul in action in the Thunder's win over the Rockets 0:11
Chris Paul nutmegged Isaiah Hartenstein before scoring with a lay-up during the Thunder's victory over the Rockets

"The energy was amazing," Paul said. "Our first nationally televised game and Russ being back so we knew that the crowd… I mean the crowd is always great, but we knew it was going to be a different energy tonight with Russ' first game back here and I mean, you've got to get excited during the player intros. Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) and I were just sitting over there talking about, you know, 'All right, let's get to it'."

It was a strange day for Westbrook. He said he had never even seen the visiting locker room during his 11-year run in Oklahoma City.

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It was a bit odd for him early in the game when the crowd that he so often riled to a fever pitch was cheering for the other team during a run that put the Rockets on their heels.

"Definitely different, but once you start hooping and competing, you kind of zone it out a little bit," he said.

Russell Westbrook gestures to fans before the Rockets' loss to the Thunder 1:53
Russell Westbrook scored a game-high 34 points in his emotional return to Oklahoma City but could not prevent the Rockets from falling to a loss to the Thunder

Westbrook scored 18 points in the first half, but the Thunder led 60-48 at the break after shooting 53.8 per cent from the field. The Thunder extended their lead throughout the second half. Westbrook was subbed out with 7:18 remaining.

After the game, Westbrook embraced several Thunder players, then went over and hugged Thunder owner Clay Bennett. He acknowledged the crowd one last time before he exiting on the opposite end of the floor from his days as a Thunder player.

James Harden goes to work on offense against the Thunder 2:21
Highlights of the Houston Rockets' visit to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Week 12 of the NBA season

Westbrook was the last remaining player from the team that began playing in Oklahoma City in 2008 after the franchise left Seattle.

"I don't regret one thing being here in Oklahoma City," he said. "I don't regret signing back, I don't regret staying here. I don't regret anything that I did here. I feel like I left everything out on the floor every single night and did what I could for the city."

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