As Nets coach Kenny Atkinson sees it, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is “having a legendary year.” He arrived at Barclays Center on Tuesday night averaging a triple-double (31.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.1 assists) through 66 games, and he had scored at least 40 points in five of his past eight games.
Westbrook, with 32 triple-doubles this season, passed Wilt Chamberlain for the second-most triple-doubles behind only Oscar Robertson, who had 41 in 1961-62. If he keeps it up to the end of the regular season, Westbrook will join Robertson as the only players to do it.
“I’m sure it’s something for him,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “If it happens, it would be another milestone in his career. But I can tell you the most important thing to him is winning. The encouraging part for me is that when he’s gotten triple-doubles, we have played well. So, there has been a correlation.”
Over the past two seasons, the Thunder have a 44-6 record in games when Westbrook records a triple-double, including 18-0 last season. This season has been a different kind of challenge because Kevin Durant went to Golden State as a free agent and the Thunder recently added Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and Norris Cole in a trade. “Half our team is new, and he’s done a terrific job leadership-wise,” Donovan said of Westbrook. “He’s always been a leader, but I think the way the team is structured right now, a lot of people are looking to him for that leadership.”
Asked what stands out most about Westbrook, Atkinson said, “The thing that strikes you is how competitive he is and the physical force he plays with. To play with that kind of aggressiveness, force and physicality from the point guard position, you don’t see that every night. But he’s redefined the position with how big he is and fast and strong. He’s a unique player.”