Less than a decade ago, the idea of averaging a triple-double in a season felt like a foreign concept. One of Russell Westbrook’s greatest feats in that regard is normalizing triple-doubles, both in a single game and averaging them over a season.
The polarizing nature of Westbrook is that he has been at the forefront of the triple-double being viewed in an entirely different light with raw stat accumulation no longer being seen as the statistical feat it once was, particularly when done in an inefficient manner.
But for both better and worse, Westbrook’s career will be attached to the triple-double, especially considering the fact that he had averaged them in four of the five seasons prior to coming to Los Angeles. But true to his form, Westbrook’s stubbornness blinded him to what so many others had seen.
During an exit interview in which Westbrook let it all fly, he revealed his wildly self-unaware barometer for a successful season when asked to grade his year in purple in gold.
“Yeah, I mean it’s different,” Westbrook said. “It’s a scale that I knew I would have to figure out. Like yes, I would have the ball in my hands a lot less, I’d be in different positions on the floor, and that’s a part of the sacrifice, and that will obviously accumulate to the numbers being a little different and not averaging as many points, and not averaging as many assists. And that’s what I mean by being able to scale and understand my performance and where I see where I could have done different things better.
“And obviously I could have had a better season, but based on the positions and how we played and where I was at on the floor, I wasn’t really able to do some of the things I was able to do even last year, like obviously, I was coming off of averaging a triple-double, so anything less than that would not be a good season for me, in my eyes. You know what I’m saying?”
No, I don’t know what you’re saying, Russ.
If his expectation was to come in this season and average a triple-double or it be not a successful season, then everything was doomed from the start. He seems to want to have his cake and eat it, too, by talking about how much he was willing to sacrifice while also noting it being an unsuccessful campaign if he didn’t average said triple-double.
It further shows Russ’ complete lack of self-awareness on the court. He will go down as one of the greatest players of his generation and league history as well as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s also going to go down as someone defined by his stubbornness and how much that capped the ceiling on his career.
For Russ, his mindset has long been his way or the highway and he’s not nearly efficient enough as a player to have success as a team when it matters his way. But his lack of self-awareness means he still doesn’t realize that and, at this point in his career, likely never will.
The result is Russ saying one thing and doing another, as he did this season. He can talk about a changing role he constantly had — which is true — but he never adjusted for that role, continuing to play as the same Russ with his flaws and lack of self-awareness as glaring as ever and triple-doubles few and far between.
And, ultimately, that is why it was an unsuccessful season in Los Angeles.