We don't know what to do with Russell Westbrook. He is not, as his coach Scott Brooks suggested late last night, the second-best point guard to ever play the game. And he is not empty calories: dipping all corners of the stat sheet in sugary goodness but leaving his teams with cavities instead of prolonged satisfaction. The truth — as it so often does — lies somewhere in the middle. Westbrook is an ink blot who can look like one of the most athletically gifted unicorns in modern sports history or, flatly, someone who is an active detriment to his teams.
The Washington Wizards' never-ceasing motor posted yet another triple-double last night with 14 points, 21 rebounds and 24 assists. It's the second time in his career he's gone 20-20 in rebounds and assists. Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player to do it once. Barring a late-season stumble, Westbrook will finish the year averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in five seasons. Only Oscar Robertson did it once.
Over the past five years, spanning 349 games, the mercurial superstar is averaging 26.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 10.0 assists. Really think about that and come up with an argument that this is not one of the most remarkable accomplishments in league history. It'll take some mental gymnastics.
Before looking up some numbers and discovering Westbrook is 119th in effective shooting percentage this year. Before remembering that he's never won the big one. Before considering if the value of the triple-double has lost its luster, like a small-sample-size Triple Crown in baseball.
But consider this. If he's to be knocked for playing with Kevin Durant and James Harden and Bradley Beal and still going ringless, shouldn't we also ponder what type of absurd stat lines he could have put up as the permanent alpha dog? Is it unreasonable to think he could have averaged a triple-double over the entirety of his career? The brain ... can't even process that.
Westbrook demands 110 percent from himself and from others. He's carried the Wizards from 6-17 to the cusp of the play-in tournament, a remarkable accomplishment even if it proves ultimately hollow. Perhaps that's the way to most fairly view this singular figure touching every part of every game he plays. Perhaps trying to understand him gets in the way of appreciating him for the one-of-a-kind enigma he's always been.