Shootaround (April 8) -- Westbrook's astounding triple-double season
Plus, Durant ready to return for Warriors and more
No. 1: Westbrook clinches triple-double average — After a season of speculation, last night Russell Westbrook clinched what no NBA player has done in over fifty years: Russell Westbrook will average a triple-double for the 2016-17 season. As Erik Horne writes in The Oklahoman, Westbrook may not have actually notched a triple-double last night, but with an assist in the third quarter, Westbrook clinched the historic stat…
With the Thunder down by 21 in the fourth quarter, Russell Westbrook jogged to the scorer’s table one final time. One landmark box was already checked off for the MVP candidate, but the crowd at Talking Stick Resort Arena went berserk, salivating for another piece of history.
The away crowd embracing the force of Westbrook — it’s become a common sight and sound this season, a season of historical significance capped by No. 0 on Friday in the Thunder’s 120-99 loss.
With a three-assist cluster in the first 1:24 of the second half, Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season. Fifty-five years between Robertson’s golden season of double-digit averages in points, rebounds and assists had been matched.
With 10:36 left in the third, Westbrook floated an outlet pass to Victor Oladipo on the fast-break for the clinching assist. When Oladipo was fouled on the basket, Westbrook threw a single finger into the air and Steven Adams tapped him on the back of the head.
Entering the game, Westbrook needed just six assists to clinch a triple-double average for the season. It was a laborious task.
History couldn’t be suppressed, even if Westbrook fell short of his 42nd triple-double of the season with 23 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He’ll have a chance to pass Robertson for the single-season triple-double record Sunday in Denver.
No. 2: Cavs shocked by Atlanta’s reserves — Earlier this week, the Cleveland Cavaliers won a huge game over the Boston Celtics to jump into the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Last night, the Atlanta Hawks came to town and trotted out a patchwork lineup, without any starters, and thanks to ball movement and hustle, beat the Cavs, 114-100. As Joe Vardon writes for Cleveland.com, according to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue it was “a bad performance” by the champs…
The Cavs followed up one of the best wins this season with arguably their worst loss.
Sure, the Atlanta Hawks are probably going to the playoffs this season, but their 114-100 win at The Q Friday night was nothing short of shocking. None, as in zero, of their usual starters played.
Imagine if the opposite were true, if the Cavs sat all five starters against the Hawks’ usual lineup. The Cavs are 0-6 when LeBron James doesn’t play. The last two times Cleveland’s Big 3 didn’t suit up, Cleveland lost by 28 and 30 points.
Well, James was out there Friday. So was Kyrie Irving. And Kevin Love. And they were blown out by the Hawks’ B team.
“Obviously a bad performance,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “To beat Boston and have the game that we had and to come back and not validate it against a team that didn’t even play their guys. I didn’t think we respected them tonight. I thought we thought we’d just mess around with the game until it was time to knuckle down.
“By that time they already had confidence. That’s who we’ve been. That’s who we are. I hate it.”
Cleveland’s lead over Boston for first place in the East is 1.0 games with three to play. The Cavs’ magic number to clinch is two. The Cavs of course dismantled the Celtics 114-91 in Boston Wednesday night.
James led the Cavs with 27 points. Love added 15 points and 15 rebounds but shot 6-of-17. Irving finished with 18 points and seven assists, and was hobbling around on a sore left knee.
Mike Dunleavy, whom the Cavs traded to Atlanta on Jan. 7 for Kyle Korver, scored 20 off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. paced Atlanta with 22 points.
“As a group our energy was very low,” James said. “I have no idea why, but it was just low.”
The Cavs limited opponents to a .435 shooting percentage during the four-game winning streak that ended Friday night. The Hawks shot 45-of-89 (.506) and made 16 3-pointers. They had six players score in double figures.
Atlanta’s lead over Milwaukee for the fifth seed grew to 1.0 games.
Korver, by the way, added nine points for the Cavs. When these teams last played, on March 3, the Cavs set a record with 25 3-pointers. They were 9-of-36 from long range on Friday. J.R. Smith was 1-of-6 from deep, Love 3-of-10.
The Cavs even opened the third quarter on a 17-6 run, and still couldn’t hold on.
“What it boils down to is just them playing a very comfortable game and us trying to turn it on at one point and you can’t play like that,” Irving said.
No. 3: Durant ready to return — After injuring his knee over a month ago, Kevin Durant hasn’t played a game for the Golden State Warriors in five weeks. The Warriors weathered the storm — they’ve reeled off thirteen wins in a row — and today they’ll get Durant back. As Chris Haynes writes for ESPN, Durant went through a full practice yesterday and is ready to return…
“Today was one of those days where I went out there and played, and practiced with the guys and I felt normal,” said Durant, who will return to the Golden State Warriors’ lineup Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans. “I’ve been waiting for that feeling for a couple of weeks now.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after consulting with the training staff, there will not be a minutes restriction placed Durant since his knee is completely healed.
“If he gets fatigued, then I’m going to take him out,” Kerr said.
The team conducted a scrimmage for the first time in a month in order to get Durant a good run leading up to his return, and Kerr said his All-Star forward “looked good.”
Durant said at times during his rehabilitation that he nearly went “over the deep end” with not being able to play. He credited the training staff, coaching staff and his teammates for keeping him sane.
“I play basketball for a living,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. If somebody takes your job away, something happens and you can’t be able to do what you want to do every single day, sometimes your patience runs thin a little bit.
“Obviously I wanted to be out there playing. That’s my favorite thing to do, to play basketball. So to be away, it was different. It was tough, but I looked at the big picture man and I figured at some point I’ll get better. So, that day is here and I’m thankful.” According to those close to Durant, he is ahead of schedule but he insists that he’s not rushing back.
“If I had to wait until the playoffs, I would have waited,” he said. “At some point, I would just have to throw myself in the fire. It doesn’t matter if it’s the regular season or playoffs. It’s still basketball. Guys are still out there competing. No matter if it’s the 80th game or the first game of the playoffs.”
No. 4: The State of the NBA — Following yesterday’s NBA Board of Governor’s meetings, NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference where he touched on a number of topics, including the hot-button issue of resting players. Our Steve Aschburner was there and writes…
If an NBA head coach wants to rest his star players, he should do it one at a time, especially from marquee games on the league’s nationally televised schedule. Oh, and if possible, do it at home.
Those two guidelines — intended to alleviate some of the controversy that flared up this season over Golden State, Cleveland and other teams resting their heavy-usage (and best-known) players, to the chagrin of ticket-buying customers and the NBA’s broadcast partners — came out of this week’s discussion at the Board of Governors meetings, commissioner Adam Silver said Friday.
Also, Silver announced that Charlotte now is eligible to host the 2019 All-Star Game, in the wake of North Carolina’s recent repeal of House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill.” The NBA had pulled this year’s showcase game and All-Star Weekend events, moving them to New Orleans, in opposition to the HB2 legislation it felt discriminated against LGBT individuals, both in legal protections and in mandating restroom use in government-run buildings.
Charlotte, after resubmitting its application, still will be vetted along the usual All-Star lines. The NBA then will require that hotels, sponsors and others participating in the event sign on to an anti-discrimination policy it develops. “If those requirements are met,” Silver said, “it’s our expectation the All-Star Game will be there in 2019.”
The league’s updated stance on Charlotte and North Carolina, where it conducts business both through the Hornets’ franchise and the D-League entry in Greensboro, is consistent with the NCAA’s and Atlantic Coast Conference’s reconsideration of the state as a site for future championship games.
The matter of rest for healthy players, as a way of battling fatigue and fending off injuries, might not be specific to the NBA either. But from San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s early “work” in this area to outcries in March when the Warriors and the Cavaliers sat out stars such as Steph Curry, LeBron James, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving from prime-time ABC telecasts on consecutive Saturdays, this is the league which has generated most of the furor and caught most of the flak.
Silver had issued a memo to the 30 teams on March 20 calling the issue of rest “an extremely significant issue for our league,” a move widely perceived as a shot across the bow to the sort of wholesale sit-downs perpetrated by Golden State and Cleveland. That put the topic on the agenda this week and generated discussion that went places Silver and the owners might not have anticipated.
“The science is much less clear than I thought it would be,” the commissioner said. “And there are different philosophies from different organizations, in some cases from storied GMs vs. other GMs, and coaches who have different approaches.”
While Silver has been persuaded by medical data linking fatigue and player health, not all of it points in one direction. Even what would qualify as a “nuclear option” of reducing the regular season from 82 games – with considerable impact on the league’s, the owners’, the coaches’ and the players’ pocketbooks – might not guarantee a better product or fewer injuries.
“I don’t think we’re at the point at all where we can say this is a clear science, that if a player plays 25 games and rests for three days, that decreases the likelihood of an injury by 26 percent,” Silver said.
“There were predictions that players who were involved with national competitions in the summer would have an increased rate of injury,” he added. “We haven’t seen that data, either. And I’ve talked to some players in the league, some of our greatest All-Stars, who said that they felt when they didn’t play, it put them out of rhythm and actually increased their likelihood of being injured.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dario Saric is trying to play through plantar fasciitis … Earl Watson says if he had an MVP vote, he would vote for Russell Westbrook … Mario Hezonja will spend his summer vacation in Florida … Jerry West wishes he wasn’t The Logo … Thabo Sefolosha will donate a substantial portion of his settlement from the NYPD to charity