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Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is running out of ways to describe his admiration for Russell Westbrook. The two met early in their careers, when Brooks coached and Westbrook played for the Oklahoma City Thunder and still maintain a close friendship. Throughout this season, Brooks has defended and praised his point guard to anyone who will listen.
In the Wizards’ 154-141 win against the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, Westbrook finished with 14 points, 24 assists, and 21 rebounds to become the first player in NBA history to record multiple triple-double games with at least 20 assists and 20 rebounds. Wilt Chamberlain had the only other game with that stat line.
“He’s amazing,” Brooks said after the game. “Everybody’s described him in so many different ways. I’ve been fortunate to see him for eight years do a lot of things that are pretty much superhuman at times. Point guards don’t do what he does. They’re not built that way. There might be some that probably 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.”
Brooks went on to say that Westbrook is “gonna go down as probably the second best” point guard behind Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Westbrook’s performance Monday marked his 32nd triple-double of the season and 178th of his career, just three short of Oscar Robertson’s all-time record. Robertson recently said on longtime basketball columnist Peter Vecsey’s Hoop du Jour podcast that Westbrook is “playing MVP basketball every night.”
“What he does, there’s no point guard has ever done it,” Brooks said Monday. “Nobody. Nobody. And for him to average four [triple-double seasons] in five years, what Oscar said about him was to me, that was real. He’s doing MVP-type things every game.”
The Wizards, with Westbrook and Bradley Beal leading the way, have now won the past 11 of 13 games and sit in the 10th and final spot for the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.
With only seven games remaining in the season, Washington appears to be clicking at the right time, after a rocky start to the season that included an unplanned layoff due to a COVID-19 breakout. The Wizards have won both games this season against the Pacers, who sit right above them in the standings. Using a three-guard lineup, the Wizards set a franchise record of 50 assists Monday night, the most by an NBA team since 1990.
Much of the turnaround and stability can be credited to Westbrook.
“I feel like whatever he does, it makes it easier for us, especially me, all the young guys,” Wizards forward Rui Hachimura said after Monday’s game. “We can run the court. He likes the fast pace. It just make it easier, and that’s what he’s been doing. We start playing together more. We have more chemistry.”
That was Westbrook’s intent when he arrived in D.C. in a trade that sent John Wall, the longtime face of the Wizards’ franchise, to the Houston Rockets. Westbrook told reporters Monday he wanted to find ways to “make the game easy for everybody.”
“As we kind of got along this season, guys are doing a better job of just running the floor, spacing out,” he said. “To be honest, I mean, just me personally, I feel like I am the best playmaker in this league, because I’m able to do things that I don’t think nobody else can do. And I take pride in playmaking and passing and making my teammates better. And I’m grateful to have a bunch of teammates that make my job so much easier.”
As far as the historic stats, Westbrook insists he’s not thinking about them. He plans to reflect on it once he’s done with basketball.
“I actually just go out and have fun and hoop,” he said. “And at the end of the day, when my journey is done, and I’m done playing basketball, I can look back and think about some of the crazy stat lines, the good, the bad, the ugly, and be thankful. I’m thankful for it all.”