Just 16 rebounds from averaging triple-double for season, Russell Westbrook fiercely defensive of his stats

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Russell Westbrook‘s pursuit of a triple-double average for the season hasn’t gotten the same fanfare as last year, when he joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to achieve the feat.

But the Thunder star needs just 16 rebounds tonight to average a triple-double again this season.

It looks like a target. In his last four games, Westbrook has grabbed 15, 16, seven and 18 rebounds. Will he hit the glass hard again against the lowly Grizzlies?

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

Westbrook:

A lot people make jokes about whatever, stat-padding or going to get rebounds. If people could get 20 rebounds every night, they would. If people could get 15 rebounds, they would. The 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 sh. 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.

Let’s get this out of the way: Westbrook chases stats. He’s not the only one. He doesn’t always do it. But he does.

And I only somewhat blame him for it.

His triple-double average drove his MVP campaign last season. Bigger contracts and endorsements come for players with bigger traditional numbers.

He’s also remaining true to himself. Westbrook plays with a cutthroat mentality. He’s unwilling and maybe unable to turn it off. The same drive that leads him to pursue every rebound – even when he should be rotating or getting back defensively – leads to his fantastic play. Maybe you just have to take the good with the bad.

His teammates don’t seem to mind. Steven Adams particularly takes pride in boxing out, no matter whether he or a teammate – often Westbrook – actually grabs the rebound.

That’s the play-the-right-way mentality, and it’d be nice if Westbrook shared it. But he should also receive similar praise for his very-good season whether he grabs six or 16 rebounds tonight, and we know he won’t. If he gets 16, the recognition will be far greater.

So, Westbrook will keep chasing stats. Some of us will keep cracking jokes about it. Others will keep praising his numbers. He’ll keep defending himself from the critics and accepting the adoration from fans.

It’s just the cycle now. It shouldn’t be solely on Westbrook to break it.