Westbrook tries to toe the line between assertively scoring and passively distributing
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With Kevin Durant set to return to Oklahoma City for the first time since he joined the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook talked as extensively as he has in months about his severed relationship with his former teammate.
With a rebound and an assist within a matter of seconds of each other in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook tied Oscar Robertson’s mark for most triple-doubles in a season with 41 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
Following the Thunder’s 110-79 win, Westbrook said his accomplishments this season have been “a blessing” and something he “could never have imagined.”
“It’s a special night I definitely won’t ever forget,” Westbrook said. “I’m just truly honored to do it here, especially, in Oklahoma City.”
Some 45 minutes before showtime, 11 Western Conference All-Stars warmed up on one end of the floor, while Russell Westbrook stood alone on the other side, shooting free throws.
Fans accounted for 50 percent of the vote to determine the starters. Current players and the media accounted for 25 percent each. Ballots consisted of two guards and three frontcourt players per conference.
Westbrook actually was tied with Curry and Harden in the points tally after finishing first in the media vote and player vote and third in the fan vote, but Curry and Harden beat him out because the fan vote was the tiebreaker.
With time ticking down before the half, Pachulia knocked Westbrook down, appearing to push the ball into Westbrook’s face. Westbrook remained on the floor holding his face. Pachulia was handed a flagrant foul 1 for the play, following a review by the officials.
But what upset Westbrook was Pachulia’s reaction to the foul. The Warriors big man took a couple of steps to stand over Westbrook when the Thunder point guard was on the floor.
“No, I didn’t see that until just now, but I don’t play that game,” a clearly agitated Westbrook said. “I’m gonna get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I don’t play that game.”
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Westbrook was assessed a technical foul, his 10th of the season. He had two technicals from earlier in the season rescinded by the league earlier in the day.
“I called his name. He turned right at me and then looked away. I don’t know,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know what to tell you, brother. I really don’t. I’m not the type of guy … I would never, ever disrespect the game like that and throw the ball at the referee. I’ve never done it before. That’s just not even heard of in the game before. To get a tech, it’s crazy to me. But you take the good with the bad.”
The throw came after Westbrook didn’t get a call on consecutive drives to the basket cheap nba jerseys china. Westbrook has expressed frustration with not getting foul calls this season, saying he is not officiated like other players.
Westbrook was initially shielded by teammates, but he made it clear to Maddox and the other officials that it was accidental. Westbrook later appeared to apologize to Maddox.
“I thought we had some shots that we didn’t make,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought that we missed a lot of stuff around the basket. We have to make those plays. I thought we had a couple of possessions where we lost control and the ball got slapped out of our hands. So, some of those led to some fast-break points. There were some moments there in the first half where I felt that we played really well. Then there were some moments where I think we didn’t play as well.”
Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.6 points per game, and also has a league-high 21 triple-doubles this season. Westbrook is also averaging 10.4 assists and 10.6 rebounds per game, making him the first player to be averaging a triple-double at this point in a season since 1963-64.
“I don’t want to take away anything from anybody, because I’m obviously not with all those players on a regular basis,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “But in my opinion, there’s no way he should not be starting in an All-Star Game.
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Westbrook’s routine assault on the box score has been a sight to see the entire season, and he has normalized the triple-double. He didn’t play well in Cleveland, but he also put up 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in 36 minutes. But as he says often, his only focus is on winning, and no triple-double will ever serve as consolation. For the Thunder this season, triple-doubles often come as a prerequisite for a win. Against the Cavs, he was handed the rare empty triple-double.
Without Steven Adams, who was sidelined with a concussion, the Thunder looked lost from tipoff, struggling to defend the ball as the Clippers piled up points in the paint, slicing apart the Thunder’s defense. Their best hope was laid in Westbrook having one of those games, with him keeping it close enough to eventually steal. But he struggled early, hitting just 3-of-13 in the first half as the Thunder fell in a hole. Even with Chris Paul sidelined for the second half with a thumb injury, there was no ignition from Westbrook (24 points, five rebounds and four assists) to be found.
Westbrook is traditionally terse in postgame sessions, especially after losses, but he was clearly aggravated with the Thunder’s lack of competitiveness. He prides himself on a nightly ready-to-play disposition, but that hinges on at least a couple of his teammates joining him. Without their defensive anchor in Adams, and the fatigue of playing a game the night before in Sacramento, the Thunder were slow and soft against the Clippers.
The Thunder can renegotiate Westbrook’s contract up, starting him on a four-year, maximum level deal this season. Currently, Westbrook is set to make $17.7 million this season, but could move that to close to around $27.5 million on a renegotiated deal this season. In the long term, Westbrook will make more money on a renegotiated extension than if he waits to sign a max level contract next summer, even with the rising salary cap.
It’s not shocking the Thunder struggled. Their month of January is an exhaustive test of endurance both mentally and physically, but they also are so centralized on Westbrook that if he doesn’t perform — especially on the road against a good team — it’s difficult for them to absorb that. Westbrook tries to toe the line between assertively scoring and passively distributing, but that becomes more difficult when the help isn’t there. For example, per ESPN Stats & Information research, the Thunder are 0-of-17 from 3-point territory off Westbrook passes in the past three games.