Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is threatening to become the first NBA player to average a triple-double since Cincinnati Royals Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson achieved the double-figure points, assists and rebounds mark during the 1961-62 NBA season. A lot has changed in the league since then, which is why Westbrook’s current averages of 30.9 points, 10.9 assists and 10.5 rebounds would make such a feat a remarkable achievement in line with some of the greatest individual seasons in NBA history. If not the greatest individual season in NBA history.
As Westbrook takes on each new opponent while the OKC season drawls on, we’ll be updating his chances at matching the Big O’s feat.
Just call Russell Westbrook “Even Steven.”
(Never call him that. Never call anyone that.)
On the same day that he learned that the Atlanta Hawks fouled him – twice!! – during Oklahoma City’s 110-108 loss on Monday night, Westbrook also saw his various feeds light up due to some more pleasant news. A quirk by design in the upcoming NBA collective bargaining agreement will make it so Westbrook, about to enter his prime, will be eligible for a massive, career-comforting contract extension this summer, just a calendar year after signing his last extension with the Thunder.
This summer, Westbrook could sign a five-year, $219 million contract extension that would begin in the 2018-19 season. He’ll make $28.5 million in 2017-18.
Westbrook and Harden are two of the NBA’s top Most Valuable Player candidates and could join a class of Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins that is eligible to earn extensions starting at $36 million a season.
The NBA and Players Association negotiated the addendum to the new Designated Player Veteran Exception to grant [James] Harden and Westbrook 2017 eligibility despite both signing contract extensions in the summer of 2016. Under normal CBA rules, players aren’t allowed to sign extensions in consecutive years.
The league and union worked together on the Harden/Westbrook arrangement with the belief that neither player, nor the Rockets or Thunder, should be punished for honoring the spirit of the rules: encouraging players to remain with current teams on contract extensions. When those deals were negotiated to raise the players’ salaries and add extra years to the contracts, the teams and players were unaware that the new CBA would offer such substantial financial rewards for waiting another year.
This is sensible news in the wake of the string-alongs we saw from various stars following the last NBA CBA, with summers that saw LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Westbrook’s former teammate Kevin Durant take on smaller deals with opt-out clauses after one season, deals that allowed the franchise stars to renegotiate for what in technical terms we refer to as As Much As Freaking Possible as the salary cap continued to rise.
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The cap will continue to rise, though not in the jumps we saw from 2014 through last summer, as the league and its players put together a tidy career contract compromise that players, agents and teams will now spend the next several years attempting to break down and use to their varying advantages. All while your cable was shut off.
At first blush, you wouldn’t mind the loss of that cord prior to the realization that three of Russell Westbrook’s next four games are on cable television channels, and Wednesday night’s feature against the New Orleans Pelicans will take place on NBA League Pass.
The setup that saw Westbrook contribute 46 points, 11 rebounds and seven steals in that loss to Atlanta on Tuesday. Russell concluded his season-long, two-game series with ATL with averages of 39 points, 12 rebounds and 9.5 assists per contest.
Of course, they split the series with the Hawks, with Westbrook’s work down the stretch on Tuesday resulting in a series of no-calls that the league later revealed should have gone the MVP candidate’s way.
With the Thunder trailing 110-108, Westbrook ran the length of the floor and went toward the rim. His first attempt, a runner from just inside the free-throw line, misfired. On that play, [Atlanta swingman Thabo] Sefolosha “makes contact with Westbrook’s body that affects his drive to the basket and shot attempt,” according to the Last Two Minute report.
Westbrook grabbed the offensive rebound, and his second attempt at the rim was blocked. No foul was called on that play, a correct no-call according to the report. Atlanta’s Kyle Korver “maintains legal guarding position, and Westbrook’s shot is cleanly blocked by Bazemore,” according to the report.
But on the ensuing inbound attempt, Westbrook launched a 3-point attempt, and Bazemore “makes contact with Westbrook’s arm that affects his jump shot attempt,” according to the report.
Westbrook, after a bit of deserved on-court fury following the no-calls …
Russell Westbrook was hot after that no-call on the final sequence. "You were standing right there. Blow the f****** whistle."
— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) December 20, 2016
… stayed silent after the contest, in the face of a fine that would have been levied even with (to Dwyane Wade’s consternation) the NBA agreeing with him:
Westbrook on the no-calls in the final 15 seconds: "Uh, I'm not sure."
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) December 20, 2016
The loss dropped the Thunder a full game in back of the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western playoff bracket, with Oklahoma City working with the seventh seed.
Westbrook, who hit for 28 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and 10 turnovers in his team’s last meeting with New Orleans, will take on the Pelicans on Wednesday. Due to his season-long totals, he is in no danger of losing his triple-double and/or 30-point averages with a poor game.
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