The mood at practice the day after the Oklahoma City Thunder clinched the playoffs was joyous. A year of inconsistency, players accepting new roles and responsibilities and a decent amount of disappointing performances are now in the rear view mirror.
The slate is blank. While the Thunder’s ultimate playoff destination is still uncertain, now is the time to take stock in what has been accomplished.
Most notably, the potential for more history from the reigning MVP, Russell Westbrook.
By now you’re well aware that Westbrook is only 16 rebounds away from averaging a triple-double for the second consecutive season. A feat that even the great Oscar Robertson didn’t accomplish.
Not to mention that Westbrook will become the first player to lead the league in scoring the previous season only to follow it up with leading the league in assists the following year. But for now we will concentrate on the potential of the triple-double season.
Despite what some NBA media personalities will tell you, to average a triple-double is an incredible achievement. For Oklahoma City, it is very much connected to their success — the Thunder are 86-18 (20-5 this season) when he reaches the mark.
“I don’t think Russell’s ever played that way, I think he’s always focused on winning.” -Billy Donovan
Do his teammates concede at times to allow their leader to grab the extra rebound? Sure. But why is wanting to see your teammate succeed on a historical level suddenly a taboo?
Carmelo Anthony was candid yesterday in practice. The 33-year old eventual Hall of Famer smirked and chuckled when speaking on how Westbrook aggressively grabs rebounds.
“Oh he steals them,” Anthony said laughing. “He steals them.”
Anthony, who reached a personal milestone himself this season by cracking 20,000 career points, spoke that players are always aware of their teammate’s achievements.
“I don’t think there’s much discussion about it,” Anthony said at practice. “I don’t think, I know there’s not much discussion about hitting those milestones. But we’re all aware of it. I think being in the game and the way that social media is today, you almost have to be aware of what’s happening, especially if you’re really engaged with what’s happening with social media. So guys are aware of what’s happening.”
Westbrook even spoke a little about that today at shoot around as the Thunder prepare for their regular season finale against Memphis. When asked about if teammates being aware of personal milestones of their comrades, the All-Star spoke about being surrounded by special players.
“We definitely have a great group here,” Westbrook said earlier today. “There are a lot of special guys that wanna make something special happen, and that’s win a championship. So we all have to sacrifice something and make it happen.”
This was before Westbrook went on a verbal crusade against those who believe he is stat-padding or chasing rebounds.
“I take pride in what I do. Come out and playing and I get the ball faster than someone else, that’s just how it is.” -Westbrook
“A lot of people make jokes about stat-padding or going to get rebounds,” Westbrook said. “If people could go get 20 rebounds, they would. The people that’s talking, they should see how hard it is. I’m tired of hearing the same old, rebound this, stealing expletive.”
You could almost feel on the court of the Thunder practice facility that Westbrook was speaking directly to a few major sports personalities.
The normalization of the triple-double has become a tired subject for some NBA fans. Westbrook’s drive into the record books has become a topic of debate on the validity of the triple-double at times. Despite this, Westbrook continues to play the way he wants to. Something Oklahoma City is happy to see, even if there are examples that it can be detrimental to the team’s success.
With that said, prepare yourselves for the rebound fiesta tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena.