- So who's the man in Oklahoma City? – (SportsNetwork.com) - So who's the man in Oklahoma City?
Is it still Kevin Durant?
Judging by the way Russell Westbrook has been playing, the Thunder are undergoing a star-studded facelift. However, that could change when Durant returns from a foot problem that has bothered him the entire season.
Until Durant is healthy enough to help Oklahoma City in its postseason push, Westbrook has command of the reins.
Westbrook, fractured face and all, has been dazzling on the court and is making triple-doubles look easy. Hip-hop mogul Ice Cube once rapped about messing around during a pick-up game and recording a triple-double, an effort he claimed to reminisce Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.
Westbrook is no MJ, but his numbers lately resemble His Airness. The speedy point guard has registered five triple-doubles in his last six games and leads the NBA with seven this season. Some NBA players go through an entire career without posting one. With Westbrook, it's NBA entertainment at its best.
In a 108-104 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Westbrook played 40 minutes and recorded 30 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds. Still wearing a protective plastic mask stemming from a facial fracture, Westbrook isn't too concerned about his recent feat.
"It crosses my mind when we win, which is the most important thing," said Westbrook, who leads the NBA with 27.4 points per game. He is averaging 33.1 points, 10.5 assists and 9.6 rebounds in his last 15 games.
During his six-game tear, Westbrook owns 36.8 points, 11 assists and 12.2 rebounds. Since Feb. 4, Westbrook has reached the 40-point mark five times. He recorded four straight triple-doubles from Feb. 24 to March 4 to become the first player since Jordan in 1988-89 to post that many consecutively. Air Jordan set the mark high with seven triple-doubles in a row that season.
Westbrook has 15 career triple-doubles and the Thunder are 13-2 when he pulls off the troika. Oklahoma City was unbeaten during Westbrook's first 11 triple- doubles and continued to succeed against the Raptors. Westbrook did most of his work against Kyle Lowry, who was the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference All-Star team last month.
Lowry knows Westbrook is playing out of his mind.
"He's playing unbelievable basketball right now," Lowry said. "The man is unbelievable, and he's pretty much carrying their team right now."
Westbrook is carrying the Thunder and should be even when Durant returns. KD isn't right this season and perhaps taking a step back would be best. Let's make no mistake, Durant is otherworldly when it comes to playing basketball, but Westbrook is taking the torch and sprinting with it.
Talk of taking home an MVP award is fair for Westbrook. Just look at his numbers: 27.4 points, 8.3 assists and 7.1 rebounds. Westbrook, the recipient of the All-Star Game MVP award, will have to box out LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Anthony Davis for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the best in the league.
Westbrook has more triple-doubles this season than his teammate Durant does for his entire career (6). Durant was named MVP last season.
Oklahoma City is fortunate to have two of the league's best players on its roster. It is one of just four teams in NBA history to be nine or more games below .500 in the first half of the season, only to move above the mark at the midway point of the campaign.
Westbrook is the reason for the Thunder revival and why they are closing in on a playoff spot when all was lost at the beginning of the season.
While posting triple-doubles doesn't always translate into success, it's definitely advantageous. Westbrook is playing with an edge and should keep some numbers in the holster come playoff time.
"Man, he's just finding guys," said Thunder guard Anthony Morrow. "He's getting in the paint obviously whenever he wants and it's hard to stop him when he has a full head of speed in attack mode every time. He's really getting better and better each game at finding guys and reading defenses. He's doing a great job."