Earlier this week, I checked the NBA All-Star starting lineups the second they were released. I wanted to know if Joel Embiid’s hilarious campaign was successful.
I glanced at the names, looking for Embiid. He wasn’t there. But then I looked it over again and again. That must be a typo, right? Where the Hell is Russell Westbrook???
I’m not going to spend much time arguing whether or not Westbrook deserves to be an All-Star. That’s obvious. He does. The guy’s averaging a triple double. You might’ve heard that the only player to ever do that over a full year is Oscar Robertson, and Westbrook’s season is even more impressive. Oscar did it back when teams had up to 125 possessions per game. The Thunder only have 100.
And then there’s this stat: Westbrook has 21 triple doubles this year. The All-Star starters have a combined 19.
Enough of that. What’s most interesting and important to keep in mind for this NBA season is not that a guy who’s averaging a triple-double missed the cut to be an All-Star starter, but that Russell Westbrook is the one who missed the cut. He’s a human land mine. If it were anyone else who was snubbed, it would be a story for a few days. But with Russell Westbrook, things are about to blow up.
Kobe, long considered the most competitive player in the NBA, once said that Westbrook was the only player with the same drive. Westbrook’s the kind of guy who refuses to lose, and one of the best parts about watching him is that no matter who he’s playing against, he thinks that he’s the best player on the court. When the Thunder were playing the Warriors in last year’s playoffs, you could see Westbrook took it personally that Steph Curry won the MVP. Any kind of slight strengthens him, only making him more dangerous.
Well, the rest of the NBA has wandered into a minefield, and something just gave underfoot.
For the rest of the season, Russell Westbrook is going to eviscerate the NBA. He will almost certainly average a triple double for the entire year. He will singlehandedly will the Thunder into the playoffs. He will play harder than any player we have ever seen—and with more layers, too. He’ll be a walking (err…sprinting) psychology experiment: how angry can one guy get while controlling it?
And who knows what Westbrook will do in the All-Star game itself? It just went from being mildly entertaining to must-watch TV. Westbrook will make it his mission to put up a triple double, just so he can say he did. And the pettiness thrown Kevin Durant’s way will be incredible—I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a chase down block or a steal, something to prove that they might both be wearing jerseys that say “West”, but they’ll never be on the same team again.
So, yes, Westbrook missing the cut is one of the biggest gaffes in the history of any league’s All-Star game. But we should be so happy about it. This NBA season is already one of the most exciting in a long time—complete with up-and-coming superstars in Giannis, Joel Embiid, and Porzingis, semi-competitive teams trying to decide whether to go for it or hit reset (or in the case of Atlanta…do both!), and total New York Knick dysfunction. Now, we get one more storyline before the battle royale, end-of-a-trilogy NBA Finals. We thought that Westbrook would spend this season getting revenge on Kevin Durant, and for a half-a-year, that was pretty damn entertaining. Now it gets even better. Russell Westbrook is out for revenge against the entire NBA.