After hauling in his 16th rebound of the game on April 11 against the Memphis Grizzlies, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder became the first player in NBA to average a triple-double in multiple seasons.
Only one other player, Oscar Robertson, has ever averaged a triple-double over an entire season, which he did in the 1961-62 season while playing for the Cincinnati Royals. Robertson was the only one to do so until last year, when Westbrook accomplished the feat for the first time.
“I’m very, very thankful and blessed to go out and compete,” Westbrook said. “Like I’ve said many, many times, I don’t take this game for granted, I don’t take going on the floor competing for granted, and God got something planned for me, man, nobody can stop it, and I always continue to follow his faith and stay faithful and stay strong and continue to do what I’m doing.”
Westbrook hauled in eight rebounds in the first 11 minutes of the game, half of what he needed to complete his triple-double average. Then he grabbed an air ball with nine minutes left in the third quarter for his 16th rebound of the game. Coming into the last two games, Westbrook needed 34 rebounds to get there, then got 18 against the Heat on April 9.
“Sometimes you want to fight him a little bit and push him out the way,” said Carmelo Anthony. “For me it’s good to have a guard like that, being able to crack back and get rebounds. He’ll steal rebounds sometimes. Anytime when you have a guard like that who can come back and rebound the way he does, cause we want to push the break, and when he gets it off the rebound he’s able to jump start the break and a lot of good things happen from that.”
“He steals. No, he steals,” Anthony said through a smile when asked to clarify. “We got a defensive rebound. Nobody thinks twice about that. As long as we get the rebound I don’t think we’re worried. As long as we get the rebounds we’re all cool with that.”
This mirrored what Steven Adams said last season, when Westbrook was coming under criticism for stealing rebounds. Adams said the Thunder frontcourt doesn’t care if Westbrook is stealing rebounds, because the overall goal is for the team to get a rebound. It doesn’t really matter if that ends up being him or Westbrook with the board.
“A lot of people make jokes about whatever, stat-padding or going to get rebounds,” Westbrook said. “If people could get 20 rebounds every night, they would. If people could get 15 rebounds, they would. People that’s talking or saying whatever they need to say, they should try doing it and see how hard it is.”
“Since everybody wants to be talking, I’m tired of hearing the same old rebound this, stealing rebounds, all this s—,” Westbrook said. “I take pride in what I do. I come out and play, and I get the ball faster than someone else gets to it. That’s what it is. If you don’t want it, I’m gonna get it. Simple as that.”
Westbrook and the Thunder clinched the No. 4 seed with the win over the Grizzlies and will open the playoffs against the No. 5 seed Utah Jazz.