Russell Westbrook Triple-Double Watch: Game 36, at Charlotte

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4390/" data-ylk="slk:Russell Westbrook">Russell Westbrook</a>, through 35 games. (Yahoo Sports illustration)
Russell Westbrook, through 35 games. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

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, 10.5 assists and 10.4 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.

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One should begin as one should, in 2017, with the true-life sub-tweet. In the minutes following Golden State’s 127-119 takedown of the Denver Nuggets on Monday evening, Kevin Durant was asked if new’ish teammate Draymond Green felt a need to chase down triple-double-level stats late in his team’s victory:


Draymond, who contributed 15 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in the win, wanted to remind anyone listening that notching that double-figure mark in a third category is hardly a priority for the forward:


The obvious scent to let swell here is the idea that Durant (a teammate of Russell Westbrook’s from 2008 until 2016) is looking to prop up his 30-5 Warriors at the expense of the glorious stats pictured above, as provided by Westbrook throughout 2016-17. To point out that any number of Warriors – Durant, Draymond, Klay Thompson, bench maven Andre Iguodala and even point guard Stephen Curry – are more than capable of securing the stat.

Shade, though? Hardly. Modern NBA players know exactly what they’re doing every time the microphone comes close. The league is plenty self-aware at this point, and whatever possible resentment Kevin Durant may have from his failure to win a championship in Oklahoma City probably isn’t getting in the way of someone as intelligent as him noticing that Westbrook’s triple-doubles are hardly Russell’s top focus.

They’re not getting in the way of Thunder wins, as the team sits at 21-14, and Westbrook is hardly padding his stats late in contests (be they close or otherwise). You don’t have to be glued to each Thunder game to know as much, and though Draymond Green is always looking to couple his needling of opponents with the unsolicited bout of self-promotion, the man is just telling the truth in this instance.

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And Russell Westbrook, you’ll recall, isn’t far removed from telling all of us that we need to chill out when it comes to obsessing over a stat that turns a “10” into something far more compelling than a simple “9.”

From December:

“Honestly, man, people and this triple-double thing is kind of getting on my nerves, really,” Westbrook said after a 109-89 loss to the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. “People think if I don’t get it, it’s like a big thing. When I do get it, it’s a thing. If y’all just let me play – if I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t care. It is what it is. I really don’t care. For the hundredth time. I don’t care. All I care about is winning, honestly. All the numbers s*** don’t mean nothing to me.”

[…]

Whether it’s realistic for that his current pace to continue – he entered the night averaging 31.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 11 assists – isn’t a concern, Westbrook said.

“I don’t know what’s realistic,” Westbrook said. “I just go out and play every night, man. That’s it. I really don’t care what people think is real or not.”

Since Westbrook’s streak of seven consecutive triple-doubles fell on Dec. 11, he’s contributed “just” four in 12 games since. One in every three contests. Draymond has “just” two all year. LeBron James has three. James Harden, stuck in a scintillating year for the ages on his own, has 10 – a number (through just the season’s first two months) that would blow away the competition in just about any other year.

Russell Westbrook envelops Draymond Green. (Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook envelops Draymond Green. (Getty Images)

Russell Westbrook has made sure that this isn’t just any other year. And Draymond Green has made sure that any instinct inherent in him in regards to competition at this (made-up) level was squashed long ago. If anyone could be charging to couple Westbrook’s run, it would be Draymond and his litany of brilliant nights that just happen to end with three double-digit box score notes.

Witness Ethan Sherwood Strauss’ re-telling of one of Golden State’s many blowout nights from 2015-16:

The game, of course, is well beyond over, but Green pleads to stay in, shaking his head, holding his hand out in a “wait” signal before trudging to the end of the bench in a huff. Within a few seconds, an animated discussion ensues between him and interim coach Luke Walton. Green appears none too pleased. The reason: He is one rebound away from a triple-double.

After 25 seconds of game clock have elapsed, Green is back in front of the scorer’s table, arms akimbo, ready to check in. He subs in at the timeout, and 52 seconds later, little-used guard Ian Clark misses a layup, which Green rebounds and lays in. On the very next possession, Green intentionally fouls Suns guard Devin Booker and lopes back to the bench, his mission complete.

Draymond Green, apparently, has decided to move on. And, as a results, he’ll once again get to live with the perks of all the best from many worlds: Golden State grabs a win, he’ll grab a triple-double against a Denver team that provides the sort of pace and movement issues that would allow for his brilliance to take tangible form, and Dray walks away from the table on Monday night with many thinking that he’s taking a shot at the lone wolf out in OKC.

Good news all around. Save for the Charlotte Hornets, one supposes. The Thunder is set to take on the sixth-best defense in the league in Oklahoma City’s next game on Wednesday, against a team that just gave up 52 points to Jimmy Butler on Monday. The Thunder, perpetually one game out of vaulting into the top-four out West, would like it if Westbrook could earn his triple-double by the third quarter, in a blowout win.

You know: Golden State-style.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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