Russell Westbrook will never admit to changing. That outward stubbornness is what's made him so successful, and so polarizing, over the first 11 years of his career.
Bring up his recent shooting struggles and changing offense, and he bristles. Ask him about his recent, noticeable improvements on the defensive end, and he'll insist it's nothing new.
"I've been able to switch and guard up through 4, sometimes 5s, since I've been in the league," Westbrook said Friday, ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder's 111-109 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Never before, though, has Westbrook defended like this. He is fourth among point guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus rankings. He's also leading the league in steals with 2.5 per game, besting his previous career high of 2.1 set in 2014-15.
Westbrook's defense has kept him productive even as he's in the midst of one of the most maddeningly inconsistent offensive stretches of his career. His 42.0 percent shooting from the field and 23.5 percent from three-point range are the worst they've been since his second season in the league, before he blossomed into the All-Star he's been for much of his career. He's never shot close to this poorly from the foul line (62.7 percent on 5.5 attempts per game).
Against Portland, he scored 31 points on 13-of-28 shooting; the game before, in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, he finished with 14 points on just 3-of-20 shooting. Lately, his performances have often fallen under one of those two extremes.
It's this duality that's made Westbrook one of the most complicated and divisive figures in modern NBA history.
His many fans point to the triple-doubles, huge scoring performances, outrageous fashion sense and unmistakable on-court passion and fury as reasons to love him.