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Thunder’s Westbrook still feels for injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose

Bulls forward Taj GibsThunder forward Nick Collisbattle for positisecond quarter Chicago Bulls-OklahomCity Thunder NBA game Thursday November 8 2012 United

Bulls forward Taj Gibson and Thunder forward Nick Collison battle for position in the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Oklahoma City Thunder NBA game Thursday November 8, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 10, 2012 6:36AM

Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was preparing for Game 1 against the Mavericks in last year’s first-round playoff series when he first heard about the extent of his workout partner’s injury.

Almost seven months later, he was still feeling awful for Derrick Rose.

“It’s tough, man,’’ Westbrook said Thursday before a showdown with the Rose-less Bulls. “I can’t imagine what that injury or what that feels like. He was going through a tough year, being injured. But he’s doing a great job of continuing to bring himself back and be better the next time.’’

Westbrook and Rose — and in recent years, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love — have worked out with each other in the offseason, spending gym time together in Santa Monica, Calif.

Westbrook said that Rose showed up again this summer, but he was casually taking shots at that time only three-plus months removed from surgery to repair his torn left anterior cruciate ligament, so the only real interaction was in conversations off the court.

“It’s tough because we’ve been working out together for about four years now,’’ Westbrook said. “So it was definitely a little different. But he was still in the gym, doing what he could.’’

While there’s no timetable for Rose’s return, Westbrook said he has been around him long enough to know that when he does, it will be business as usual.

“No doubt in my mind he will,’’ Westbrook said when asked if he thought Rose could return to MVP form.

“He works hard at what he does, and he will definitely come back more determined and try to be better.’’

Stop it

Reserve Jimmy Butler doesn’t know how often or even when coach Tom Thibodeau will lean on him again in crunch time to be a defensive stopper, but the second-year player has no problem embracing that role.

“I feel like my job is to go in and attempt to shut down whoever they assign me to guard,’’ Butler said.

“If [defensive stopper] is the role they want me to play, I’ll be more than happy to do that.’’

Missing in action

The Bulls entered the game with the Thunder last in the NBA in three-point shooting, averaging 2.8 makes and shooting 26.2 percent.

Thibodeau said they needed to improve but insisted that there haven’t been many opportunities to shoot from long distance because of the way his players have been attacking the paint.

“I guess the way we’ve shot the three so far, there’s only one way to go,’’ Thibodeau said.

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