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Dwyane Wade speaks out in defense of Russell Westbrook

13 April 2018
Dwyane Wade speaks out in defense of Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook will average a triple-double for the second straight season.

Last year, Russell Westbrook earned an MVP for becoming the second player in National Basketball Association history to average a triple-double over an entire season.

The win was critical - with a loss, the Thunder would have been a No. 8 seed and forced to play No. 1 seed Houston in the first round. But on a more personal note, only 16 rebounds separated Westbrook from another triple-double season.

Westbrook grabbed 18 rebounds on April 9 in a winning effort, a 22-point blowout of the Miami Heat, a playoff bound team in the Eastern Conference. The MVP controlled the game, adding a whopping 19 assists to go with six points. He had 26 of those points (on nine-of-10 shooting, including all five triples attempted) in the first two quarters to propel OKC to a season-high 77 points in the half. And with one game to play, the Thunder are seventh out west.

The flub came during the April 11 game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies. This season, though, Harden has more or less justified his backers' belief, leading Houston to the best record in the National Basketball Association - albeit with help from a key new addition, Chris Paul - while Westbrook's revamped Thunder have more or less stayed in place.

This year? He's done it again ... but the astounding accomplishment has come with backlash. He averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.0 steals, and 3.1 3-pointers during his first - and possibly last - regular season with the Thunder. Considering the fact that Paul George and Carmelo Anthony played alongside him, it's remarkable that he was still able to accomplish the feat. People that are talking, saying whatever they need to say, they should try doing it and seeing how hard it is. Over the course of a full season, that would rank dead last in the league.

Simply put, Westbrook's abilities are being taken for granted - and as "old news", he was overshadowed this season. Westbrook, especially, all but guaranteed it when asked how ready the group was heading into the postseason.

This year there is just no denying what James Harden has done with the Rockets. His team's storylines even overshadowed him when they struggled to find consistency in the wake of the offseason All-Star additions.

That season saw Westbrook break Robertson's mark for most triple-doubles in a season, finishing with 42, and creating a months-long drumbeat for his chase of a fabled achievement. In this age of National Basketball Association players getting more prescribed rest in their primes than any of our grandfathers got in their lifetimes, Westbrook is, more than anything else, refreshing. After all, he has proven his doubters wrong thus far. A win here could be massive for the Thunder in this race for playoff positioning and they're a dominant 7-0 ATS in the last seven home meetings against the Grizzlies.