Rumors of Russell Westbrook's demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Washington Wizards point guard struggled mightily to start the season as he scored only 18.9 points per game in his first 19 appearances on what appeared destined to be a lottery team. But the Wizards have rallied of late, and Westbrook is at the center of that resurgence.
Entering Monday, Westbrook had posted a triple-double in 14 of his past 17 games. The Wizards had won 10 of their past 11, and they hoped to keep their winning streak alive on Monday against the San Antonio Spurs. They fell just short in overtime, but Westbrook continued his remarkable stretch of triple-doubles with 22 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds. That gave him a grand total of 12 triple-doubles in the month of April, breaking a record previously held by Wilt Chamberlain which was set in March of 1968.
The triple-double was Westbrook's 30th of the season, but more importantly, it was the 175th of his career. That is now six short of Oscar Robertson's all-time record of 181, giving Westbrook a legitimate chance of catching up by the end of the season. Even if he doesn't, Westbrook is only 32 and will likely play several more NBA seasons. The record is going to be his someday, as will every other record involving triple-doubles.
"I honestly believe there is no player like myself, and if people want to take it for granted, sorry for them," Westbrook said after the game. "I'm pretty sure if everybody could do it, they would do it. I honestly make sure I impact the game in many ways every night: defending, rebounding, passing, assisting ... whatever it is my team needs from me to be able to win, and that's what I do. I really don't, honestly, I don't care what people [think] about it."
Westbrook is currently on pace to average a triple-double for the fourth time in the past five seasons. In his entire career, Robertson accomplished the feat only once, during the 1961-62 season. No other player has ever done so, and Westbrook holds the single-season record with 42 triple-doubles during the 2016-17 campaign.
Talking about his latest feat, Westbrook called out those who say his triple-doubles aren't really earned, or that he's "stat-padding" to reach that mark.
"I don't care what anybody thinks of this whatever they want to call it 'stat-padding' or 'not useful,'" Westbrook said. "I think it's very interesting that it's not useful now that I'm doing it. It wasn't useful when Magic [Johnson] and Oscar [Robertson] and those guys were doing it. Now that I do it and it looks easy. This s--- ain't easy, though. I'll tell you that. It ain't easy."
The Wizards have ridden Westbrook's hot streak back into the playoff picture. They currently lead the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors by one game for the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference. If Washington can hold on, no team in the play-in round is going to want to face this version of Westbrook along with Bradley Beal. Westbrook may not be quite the player he once was, but he remains one of the league's most dangerous all-around players in a single-game setting.