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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 30.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists 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.
A disastrous week for Russell Westbrook. A disaster! He didn’t dip down out of his triple-double averages, as the graphic above illustrates at lightning speed, but his admirers failed to figure out the mathematical magic needed to send him to February’s NBA All-Star Game as a starter.
Westbrook finished third in the fan voting behind MVP award combatant James Harden and two-time reigning league MVP Stephen Curry. Despite ranking tops in both the players’ and media members’ votes, the combination wasn’t enough to land Westbrook as a starter. He’ll be named as a reserve All-Star, to be sure, on Thursday, but the idea that a 30-point-per-game scorer will be coming off the bench (which has only happened four times in league history, to Carmelo Anthony, Karl Malone, Mark Aguirre and Bernard King) at an All-Star Game seems a bit odd.
A 30-point-per-game scorer who has also averaged double-digit assists and rebounds through the first half of the season missing out on a starting spot, though? That seems all the more stranger.
Westbrook sloughed off the results soon after their announcement, telling the media that he doesn’t “play for All-Star nods” in a career that has seen the Oklahoma City Thunder guard reel in two different All-Star Game MVPs:
“Honestly, one way or another, it doesn’t change anything for me. That’s a great honor. Being an All-Star is something you don’t take for granted, but like I said, for me, I don’t play to play in the All-Star,” he added. “There’s guys that may play to play in the All-Star, but I don’t play to do that. I play to become a better player and play to win a championship.”
Oh, yeah. The championship.
The All-Star news, of sorts, came at what could be a rather loaded moment in OKC’s 2016-17 turn. The Thunder have lost three of four and gone 5-7 since topping out at eight games over .500 on Dec. 27. Many saw the team’s tilting loss in Golden State last Wednesday, and crowed at the bubbly aftermath, while failing to notice that the Thunder’s only recent wins have come over relatively struggling Kings, Grizzlies and Bulls squads, while failing to make a dent against beatable great opponents like the Rockets or similarly swooning good teams like the Bucks and Hornets.
Westbrook has been mostly fine throughout (save for that quadruple-double with 10 turnovers and 7-for-23 shooting in a loss to Minnesota), but his Thunder have dipped to below-average offensive efficiency and nearly into the middling ranges on the other end of the floor after a strong start. Oklahoma City will show up for work on Monday with a 25-19 record after sliding out of the Western’s top tier (or middle tier) with its struggles.
The team is 3 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers, a group (one the Thunder lost to last Monday) playing without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Oklahoma City is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the sixth spot in the West.
“Last Monday” was the Thunder’s second-to-last game. In an NBA rarity, the team did not play between last Wednesday’s Warriors defeat, and Monday night’s game against the Utah Jazz. Four days “off” in an NBA regular season, for most coaches, is manna from heaven, a gift from the gods that allows the team to reconsider its options moving forward despite the rest of the league’s squads having to put on their clown suits in time for actual games. Actual, no-foolin’ practice days.
With Steven Adams still out following a concussion suffered in Jan. 15th’s win over the Kings, the recalibration will be needed. Four practice days just don’t show up out of nowhere in NBA seasons, and the Thunder could reflect on this otherwise-dreary week as a turning point in the 2016-17 season should good things happen from here on out.
The Week That Was
Just two games for Westbrook, though that didn’t stop his name from sticking to the tips of our tongue due to that miss of an All-Star vote from the fans. Sorry, fans, but:
Westbrook contributed 24 points on 7-for-18 shooting in a loss to the Clippers last Monday, adding five rebounds, four assists, two steals and four turnovers in his team’s blowout 120-98 loss to Los Angeles. The Clippers played the second half and chunks of the first without the injured Chris Paul, who injured his thumb in the win.
On Wednesday, Westbrook failed to make life miserable for his former teammate Kevin Durant and a Warriors team he clearly, intensely dislikes. The several extra steps afforded to him by the NBA in anticipation of his All-Star snub hardly helped, as he managed yet another turnover-led quadruple triple-double, the Shawn Kemp Memorial Quadruple-Double, with 10 turnovers, 27 points on 8-for-23 shooting, 13 assists and 15 rebounds in the loss to Golden State, a team of which, in case you missed it, he is not a fan.
The Week Ahead
The league is going to fit four of the gnarliest games you can imagine for the Thunder, coming off of that four-day respite.
The team will play in Utah on Monday, staring down a Jazz team that is a long-legged step ahead of the Thunder in the Western standings, working with the No. 2-ranked defense in the league, fully healthy and winners of six straight. From there, the Thunder will take on the New Orleans Pelicans, featuring Anthony Davis and his handful of all-over injuries, a team with few quality wins over good-to-great teams, losers twice to OKC this year already.
A trap game against a Dallas Mavericks, a squad that just embarrassed the Los Angeles Lakers, sits tucked away on Thursday. The national TV tour perks up again after that with a Sunday showing in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers. Featuring a player in LeBron James who probably thinks he could average a triple-double for an entire NBA season.
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