Russell Westbrook: Thunder's Struggles Start with Me; 'I Have to Set an Example'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2017

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the game against the Orlando Magic on November 29, 2017 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said he accepts responsibility for the team's early-season struggles following a 121-108 road loss to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center on Wednesday night and noted he must "set an example" to help get OKC back on track.

Erik Horne of the Oklahoman relayed the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player's thoughts following a third straight loss to drop the Thunder's record to 8-12:

Oklahoma City made a massive splash during the offseason by completing a pair of blockbuster trades to bolster the star power around Westbrook. It acquired Paul George from the Indiana Pacers in July and added Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks in September.

In turn, the Thunder entered the regular season tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the fourth-best NBA championship odds in the league at 12-1 behind only the Golden State Warriors (5-8), Cleveland Cavaliers (11-2) and Boston Celtics (8-1), per Stephen Campbell of OddsShark.

OKC hasn't come anywhere close to matching those lofty expectations during the first quarter of the campaign. It's 2-9 on the road and 3-9 against Western Conference opponents.

Moreover, the team's offense, which was expected to fuel its push for one of the top seeds in the West, currently ranks 22nd in efficiency, according to ESPN.com.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has continued to showcase an optimistic tone about the team's outlook as the superstars become more comfortable playing together, though.

"When you've played a certain way for so long to just expect in a month, or six weeks, that that's all of a sudden going to change, it's going to be a little bit different," he told reporters Wednesday. "But they're very willing. They're very open. They're very unselfish as it relates to moving the ball. So I think we'll continue to get better and evolve and improve on that end of the floor."

The good news for Oklahoma City is that the West hasn't been quite as strong from top to bottom as predicted coming into the season, so it's still within striking distance of a top-four seed despite a sluggish first couple months.

Westbrook, George, Anthony and Co. will look to end the losing streak and begin the process of climbing the standings when they return home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday night.

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