The New Standard: Westbrook Averages a Triple-Double Again

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

Years, decades and generations from now, fans across the world will remember Russell Westbrook, step back and simply be amazed.

After accomplishing something that no one had done in 55 years by averaging a triple-double in 2016-17, Westbrook followed it up by doing it again. On Wednesday night, Westbrook became the first player to ever average a triple-double more than once. Even more incredibly, he did it in back-to-back seasons.

In Game 82, Westbrook completed it by snagging his 16th rebound of the game against the Memphis Grizzlies, to make history. Incredibly, he did it with nine minutes to go in the third quarter with the Thunder up big. As usual, Westbrook was leading the Thunder to success in the process of generating outrageous statistics.

“It’s a blessing to be in a position to be able to go out and compete, have fun. That’s the most important part,” Westbrook said. “Once you do that, everything else takes care of itself.”

“I take pride in what I do,” Westbrook stated firmly. “You just do what you do to win.”

Triple-double does it again. #TheNewStandard

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Back in the summer of 2012, 23-year old Russell Westbrook was coming off just his fourth NBA season, when he helped lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals. The hyper-athletic, spectacular point guard was invited to be a part of Team USA’s training in Las Vegas in July.

A late bloomer who had dreams of maybe, possibly getting a college scholarship was now competing with the greatest players in the world to get the opportunity to be one of 12 men selected to represent the United States in the Olympics. Almost immediately when the players got together on the floor, Westbrook connected with then New York Knick and now Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony. Cutting up on the sidelines, making plays for one another in drills and talking some well-intentioned smack, Westbrook and Anthony bonded immediately. There was some type of recognition. A mutual respect.

“I always say lions hang with lions,” Anthony quipped.

Anthony is 19th on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list, so understands quite a bit about dealing with the personal milestones that rack up during the course of a long career with team success. He sees a clear hierarchy of priorities with Westbrook, who after his rookie year has never done anything other than win at a high level. His teams have never had a losing season, or won fewer than 45 games for that matter.

Anthony recognized that internal fire and yearning for winning early on with Westbrook, along with the remarkable athleticism. Since joining the Thunder, Anthony has had the chance to experience Westbrook’s tenacity first hand.

“His main focus is to win and he would do whatever he’d have to do to go out there and win,” Anthony said. “I think that’s something that I’ve come to love about him in being able to go to war with him every day in and day out. It’s something that you can appreciate.”

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With Westbrook, getting to double digits scoring every night is an inevitability. Just four times in the 159 games during the past two seasons of his incredible production has he failed to meet that scoring mark. Breathtaking coast-to-coast drives, precise stop-and-pop jumpers, free throws and clutch-time shot making have added up to an average of 25.6 points per game, and 61 games this season with 20-or-more points, 4th most in the NBA.

Just as he did last season, Westbrook got everyone involved offensively as well. He will be the NBA’s leader in assists, both total and per game, this year at 10.1. In the pick and roll with Steven Adams, he has a partner who finishes off plays with extreme efficiency. As a duo, Westbrook has generated more assists to Adams than any other pairing in the NBA this season.

On the wings Westbrook is always attacking and finding shooters. There are set plays for Paul George to come off curls, pin downs and flare screens. In transition, the Thunder’s lightning quick general pushes the ball into the teeth of the defense to find Carmelo Anthony, Alex Abrines, Patrick Patterson and Terrance Ferguson for open looks, or slick dishes for the streaking Jerami Grant and Corey Brewer.

Perhaps the most incredible aspect of Westbrook’s accomplishment, however, is the rebounding. There’s no other guard in the league that can get to loose balls on both ends of the floor like the reigning MVP. He tracks the flight of the ball and understands angles. His reaction time is instantaneous and his willingness to go over the top, to wrestle with bigger players and dive on the floor have resulted in him racking up over 800 rebounds this season, in 80 games.

The rebounds help for obvious reasons. When Westbrook snaps up a loose ball it means the other team doesn’t. On offense, Westbrook is typically in the thick of things, or has the court awareness to snap the ball to a waiting, open teammate. On defense, those rebounds result in the Thunder’s best offense: up-tempo, early in the shot clock attacks against a defense that isn’t set.

“Anytime you can have a guard like that to come back and rebound the way he does, because we want to push the break,” Anthony explained. “When he gets it off the rebound he’s able to jump start the break and a lot of good things happen from that.”

“Those times that he gets it, it allows everybody to run, it allows the floor to be open, it allows him to use his speed, his athleticism and his quickness, and then he gets his vision involved,” Donovan added. “There’s a huge advantage when he rebounds and starts the break.”

The statistics tell just a portion of what makes Westbrook such a force to be reckoned with on the court. His passion, intensity and focus to be able to come out and perform every single night is unrivaled around the league. Westbrook simply brings it, and produces for his team on a nightly basis and can be relied upon for his energy and effort each time he checks into the game. All of that exertion pours out of him onto the floor, and the result is an historic run the NBA has never seen before, and likely won’t see again.

“The dude is one of a kind. It just says a lot about him, his motor, his makeup, his competitiveness,” Westbrook’s All-Star teammate Paul George grinned. “That’s a different dude. A different type of beast right there.”

“He’s just been incredibly consistent,” noted veteran forward Nick Collison, who has been there for every single one of Westbrook’s 748 career games. “If you look at him, he’s incredibly durable. He’s there every night. He’s healthy. He’s ready to play, and he produces. So, I think the triple-doubles are a result of that. It’s just him consistently playing well every, single night he’s out there for a long stretch of time.”

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