Russell Westbrook has done it again. A second straight year averaging a triple double. A truly remarkable accomplishment.
Maybe the milestone lost some of its luster because Westbrook achieved it last season, being the first player since Oscar Robertson to do so.
Or maybe Westbrook’s shameless and transparent pursuit of stats finally turned people off. Cheapened an accomplishment that is almost impossible to achieve. The Thunder star has always been a polarizing figure, and last night was absolutely peak Russ.
Westbrook entered the Thunder’s last two games needing 34 rebounds. He got 18 the night before, leaving 16 measly rebounds standing between him and NBA immortality. He knew it, we knew it, he knew we knew it. And he didn’t like being called on it.
“Everybody wants to be talking, I’m tired of hearing the same old rebound this, stealing rebounds, all this [expletive],” Westbrook said prior to the team’s final game. “I take pride in what I do. I come out and play, and I get the ball faster than somebody else gets to it. That’s what it is. If you don’t want it, I’m gonna get it. Simple as that.”
And even after brushing aside the notion he was purposefully trying to pad his stats Westbrook went out and did exactly that. He chased rebounds in almost comical fashion with no regard for the fact that everyone in the building knew he was doing it.
Westbrook got his 16 rebounds as we all knew he would. It was clear from the jump he had no interest in shooting the basketball. Westbrook grabbed 10 boards in his first 13 minutes of play. He secured rebound number 16 with nine minutes to go in the third.
When it was over, Westbrook went on to deliver the stat chasing-est stat line in the history of stat chasing stat lines. 20 rebounds, 19 assists and only 6 points. Westbrook, who averages 21 FG attempts per game, attempted only nine all night, the majority of which came after he secured rebound number 16.
Despite the incredible season long statistics (25.4 PPG, 10.1 rebounds, league leading 10.3 assists) Westbrook is not in the MVP conversation. Whereas last year Westbrook was crowned league MVP without much debate because…
“HE AVERAGED A TRIPLE DOUBLE!!”
“HE DID IT WITH NO SUPPORTING CAST!”
“THEY’D BE NOWHERE WITHOUT HIM!”
And then what happened? The Thunder traded away a bunch of ‘nobodies’ named Victor Oladipo, Enes Kantner, and Domantas Sabonis. All of whom thrived in their new surroundings. And brought in ‘upgrades’ Paul George and Carmelo Anthony forming a new big three in OKC.
Westbrook once again averaged a triple-double and the Thunder went from 47 wins all the way to 48.
There are those who brush aside Westbrook’s pursuit of numbers. So what if he wants to accomplish something no one else has ever done? The guy can do everything so let him do it. But what is lost in order for Westbrook to achieve his own personal goals? Is his team better for it? Did the Thunder need him to grab 20 rebounds on Wednesday, or did he need them? Does he do it at the expense of playing defense? Would his team be better served if he applied his many gifts to give the game what it needed on a given night?
When all is said and done, no one can take away this accomplishment from Westbrook and it’s very likely no one will average a triple double for a season ever again let alone in back to back years. But when discussing his legacy it’s fair to wonder whether the numbers will add to his greatness or diminish it.