Previously On..The NBA: Another Triple-Double

The 2018-19 NBA season is finally here. Excitement is brewing as we have had a whirlwind offseason with quite a few storylines. Expectations and predictions guaranteed to be incorrect are being hurled ad infinitum. Even here at TSFJ, we are preparing to get back on our NBA journey. But let's not move on so quickly from last year. Some things happened that deserve one final mention before the new year tips off. Think of it like a TV show that provides a recap of past events before a new episode.

Previously On...The NBA: Russell Westbrook's season.

If one were a betting person and went to a casino-like venue to place prop bets, he or she probably would not bet that Russell Westbrook would average a triple-double for a second-straight season. Given the fact that before the 2016-17 season, only one player had accomplished that feat. We now have a second man who has achieved such a season for two consecutive years. And for some combination of valid reasoning and our microwaveable attention spans, Russell Westbrook's season was somewhat overlooked.

Two seasons ago, Russell Westbrook was viewed as a scorned lover bent on proving just how great he is and can be after Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors. We viewed his remaining Thunder teammates as far from ideal. But that didn't stop Westbrook, who took on that challenge and as close to single-handedly made the Thunder a playoff team. He rightfully deserved the MVP that year.

This past season, the Thunder front office brought in some star-studded help. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were added, and thus the "OK3" was formed. There was an adjustment for Westbrook, as he now had to navigate the two realms of integrating stars into his world while also maintaining the responsibility of being the team's best player. In the beginning, OKC flirted with mediocrity as the three stars sorted out shots and touches. But once Westbrook decided not to defer as much — to be the best player — his numbers rose again. He followed his MVP season with a similar one, and we just merely accepted it.

It is interesting how we react when the improbable becomes possible. Little changed with Westbrook last year. Even as two great players deserving of touches and moments to dominate the ball joined him, they deferred to him because of his greatness. In some way, Russ's determination implanted so much belief that he could average a triple-double for another season that we barely acknowledged when it happened. The fear was taken as gospel truth without the celebration of the good news that the gospel is.

I don't know which of Westbrook's triple-double seasons were more incredible, but I do know the feat should be celebrated more. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Westbrook's 2017-18 should have had more pomp and circumstance, even as other storylines were also worthy of notice. The case could be made that we were more focused on how stubborn Anthony is rather than appreciating that Russ had the season he did. Forget any notion of chasing statistics, even as there was evidence of it last year. To quote Westbrook himself, "If anyone could get fifteen rebounds every night, they would." In the game where he needed to amass rebounds and assists to ensure the triple-double, he had 20 rebounds and 19 assists. Sure, there is a concerted effort for any great player to chase stats. But also understand that those who actually can do that at times are great enough to do so. There is nothing he can do to tarnish how incredible his 2018 season was — not even through the perspective of him having a "better" season in 2017. We should instead be more impressed with him.

It requires so much energy to play basketball the way Russell Westbrook does. For that reason alone, and considering the energy it took for him to lead the Thunder to the playoffs in 2017, for Russ to average a triple-double again is nothing short of remarkable. Before we get into the next season, even though he is a man always focused on what's ahead, let's celebrate Westbrook one more time for accomplishing something we've never previously seen.

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