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NBA players are in awe of Russell Westbrook's triple-doubles even though critics say they are overrated

Scott Davis   

NBA players are in awe of Russell Westbrook's triple-doubles even though critics say they are overrated
  • Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in five seasons.
  • Former NBA player Jamal Crawford said other players appreciate how much energy it takes to do that.
  • Crawford said critics of Westbrook's don't understand how hard it is to put up his numbers.

Russell Westbrook's penchant for posting triple-doubles is most appreciated by those who know how hard it is.

Westbrook averaged a triple-double again this season, his fourth time accomplishing the feat in five years. He also broke Oscar Robertson's all-time record for triple-doubles.

Despite the achievements, Westbrook has long been a divisive player. While he puts up incredible numbers, he has also been a high-usage, low-efficiency player who hasn't elevated his teams to the next level. Critics of his game have argued that he has chased stats instead of reining in his game to better suit his teams' needs.

Westbrook's unprecedented run has created a chasm in the NBA world: those who appreciate Westbrook's historic feats and believe he gets criticized unfairly, and those who think Westbrook's stats are somewhat empty.

On "The Athletic NBA Show" podcast, former NBA player Jamal Crawford, who played 20 years in the league, explained why he - and other players - marvel at Westbrook's triple-doubles.

"I never thought we would see a person average a triple-double," Crawford said. "I know what kind of energy that takes to do that every single night. I said, even if a guy gets [a triple-double] 40 nights, he's not gonna average it for the season. It's not gonna happen.

"This guy's done it four of the last five years. So it's amazing, when you hear the lightning rod of criticism, it's kind of like the stat guys vs. the players. The players know how difficult that is. They know what kind of energy that [requires]. They know to do it every single night, to have the fourth game in five nights be in Utah where the air is thin, and you have to go do it and find a way. So my respect for him is through the roof."

Westbrook kicked things up a notch in the last month-and-a-half of the season as the Wizards made a playoff chase. Since April 7, Westbrook averaged 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists per game, leading the Wizards to a 17-6 record to close the season and make the play-in tournament and the playoffs.

Westbrook had three games where he topped either 20 rebounds or 20 assists during that span, including a game in which he posted 14 points, 24 rebounds, and 21 assists.

"If a guy averages 10 & 10, you're like, 'Oh he's having a great season!'" Crawford said on the podcast. "This guy's averaging - he's not just getting 10, 10 & 10, he's getting 26-21-24. These are video game numbers. It's unbelievable."

Crawford dismissed critics who say Westbrook steals rebounds from big men on his teams. Crawford said that big men giving up rebounds to Westbrook not only shows that they support his pursuit of triple-doubles but that it still requires intense energy.

"Most people who don't appreciate the art of basketball and how hard that is will say it's empty stats, No. 1. Or he's chasing it," Crawford said. "They don't understand how hard that is."

Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who also coached Westbrook for seven seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, told reporters that he believed Westbrook would go down as the second-best point guard ever, trailing only Magic Johnson.

"I've been fortunate enough to see him for eight years do a lot of things that are pretty much superhuman at times," Brooks said early in May.

"Point guards don't do what he does. They aren't built that way. There might be some that shoot better. There might be some that probably can do certain things better. But there's nobody in the history of the game that can do what he does throughout the stat sheet. That guy is as high a level of a player this league has ever seen."

Crawford said he thinks it may be a long time before the NBA sees such a statistical accomplishment.

"We may go another 50 years before we see a different player do this," Crawford said.

He added: "I get it: the pace is faster, the game is more conducive to scoring and offense right now. I get that. But what he's doing is legendary. And we'll talk about this 30 years from now."


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