OKLAHOMA CITY -- Although Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook tried to downplay any notion of a budding rivalry with the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose, it's obvious to anyone who watches the game closely that their off-the-court friendship fuels an exciting on-the-court rivalry.
"Each and every night he's going to bring it, and I'm going to come out and give 110 percent, and that's a good thing to have in this league," Westbrook told the Thunder's website. "Guys who come out each and every night to compete."
The two young point guards are represented by Arn Tellem and shared the same trainer, Rob McClanaghan, the past few summers. They spent even more time together than usual this past summer on the Team USA squad that won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey.
That's why Wednesday night's season-opening game is a little extra special for both men.
"We're friends off the court, but on the court it's 'I'm trying to kill you,'" Rose said. "That's just being a basketball player, being an athlete, and when you're on the court against someone, you're trying to do better than them.
"You're trying to have that mentality where, 'I'm going to kill you every time we step on the court.' But off the court we're still friends."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn't concerned that Rose will try to turn the game into a one-on-one battle.
"I know he's not like that," Thibodeau said. "He's concerned about our team.
"We're worried about how the Bulls are going to play and the individual matchups, I guess it's part of the game, but we're worried about our team."
Still, the matchup is one not to miss.
"They're both blurs," Thibodeau said. "When [Westbrook's] coming at you with a head of steam, it poses a lot of problems. He can create a lot of easy shots for other guys. You have to get back with your team defense and force him to get back with your set defense.
"When they played this summer, I thought they were both fierce competitors and they go at it, but I think they're two of the young stars of this league."