The season of the ‘new normal’, as rare as it is for everyone, is being one more for Russell Westbrook. The explosive Washington Wizards point guard, en route to his fourth season averaging a triple-double, he continues to combine the two fronts that have accompanied him throughout his career: statistics and criticism. Known history. No script twist was expected in the American capital and it hasn’t. The start of the course did not help: the first game became his first statistical treble of the season, but also his first defeat. One of many that remained to come. It took the Wizards five games to get their first win. The victory, already in the sixth, came without Westbrook; the previous falls, accompanied by a triple-double of his. Maddening. Even for Russell, trained in the art of dealing with criticism. And each time more. Throughout the course, the results have only allowed him a brief, easily identifiable period to breathe: from February 14 to February 27 of the same month. Seven victories in eight games for a team that seemed to be resurrected. A positive streak to show that with Westrbook, you can’t just win; it can be much easier.
It lasted what it did. After the positive sprint, new braking. Almost harder than all of the above. The season in Washington has been difficult, especially for Russell, who started with some sore quadriceps that he has left behind. Health protocols, franchise with more postponed games, etc. The victories came when it seemed that the team was already able to show its true potential, as if all of the above had been irremediably influenced by the various setbacks that were splashing. An unreal image. A cry of hope that has run out of air. They continue to add more defeats than victories and the calendar tightens, with access to the playoffs very far away and an elusive play-in among the many hands that are trying to reach it. And, again, criticism. Of course, with Westbrook on target. Not even their hyperbolic performance against Indiana, with a triple-double (35 + 14 + 21) that no one else has managed to sign in the history of the competition, scared them away. “This Westbrook … Take him to Barcelona or CSKA and tell him to be European champion: there is no possibility of that happening,” Dino Radja said.
He has found a counterpoint. On TNT, where he has already made some of the most controversial statements of the season, Shaquille O’Neal has stepped up. Paradoxically, in his defense, an uncommon tonic within an old guard that, normally, discredits the current era of basketball to raise his own. “(Westbrook) is one of my favorite players. Unfortunately, in this business, all the greats have had to go through this: Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Isiah, Magic, myself, D. Wade … To get that maximum respect you need a ring. When you’re a great player and you’re hitting big numbers, people will always say, ‘Wait until you have a championship.’ If you don’t get a championship, it seems that you have not achieved anything “, observe about it. In addition, add several names, all of them great legends, considered as such, who were left without achieving glory in their prolific careers. “It cannot be said that Allen Iverson or John Stockton are not some of the best point guards in history. It cannot be said that Karl Malone or Charles Barkley are not some of the best interiors; but that’s the way the NBA is “, ditch the, also legendary, pivot.
“Everybody thinks it’s over …”
Shaquille has not been the only one. His main partner in the Wizards, and the competition’s top scorer, Bradley Beal, had already raised his voice repeatedly. “He is one of the best teammates I have ever had. He loves basketball. He loves this sport in all its fullness,” he went on to say. Unmitigated praise that, however, counted on the fact that it came from within the franchise itself. Not now. Duncan Robinson, forward for the Miami Heat, has also joined the party: “Criticism of this type of Russell cannot be tolerated. I know people will always say that they are accumulating statistics or looking for statistics, but they have also done it with wins. What he is capable of in the absence of Bradley Beal is simply incredible. I don’t think it gets all the appreciation it deserves, “he says on his own podcast, the Duncan Robinson Podcast.
MVP in 2017, Russell touches the triple-double in the statistical average of his career. In Oklahoma, where he was in the ring, in Houston, last season, or now, in the Wizards, his numbers have always been at the top of the league. If he follows the natural course of events, he will end up being the player with the most triple-doubles in history, ahead of Oscar Robertson’s 181. From Duncan Robinson’s point of view, a fact that should be valued all the more: “That I’ve been doing this for so long makes it so impressive … Everybody seems to think it’s over and over. There are people who will say until it makes it difficult to win, but the reality is that they have been in really good teams. There is a misconception of attributing it all to the championships, but there is more to it than that. It’s just incredible that I can play at such a high level for so long. “Compliments to ears used to the mud, but who continue to add points, rebounds and assists.