Los Angeles Lakers star point guard Russell Westbrook has become forever linked to the Triple-double stat line. Westbrook’s all-around play has guided him toward cementing his place in the NBA record books. It’s also led to Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet to deliver a subtle verbal jab.
Russell Westbrook’s rise to NBA stardom
Westbrook entered the league as a promising guard out of UCLA that showed flashes of stardom.
He quickly latched onto his point guard duties to become one of the most dynamic playmakers. Westbrook progressively developed into a bonafide star behind his elite all-around play. He earned his only MVP award in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder without Kevin Durant.
He’s earned nine All-Stars selections, received nine All-NBA Team nods (two First Team, seven Second Team, and two Third Team), led the league in scoring twice and assists three times. Westbrook became synonymous with the triple-double stat line after he surpassed Oscar Robertson as the all-time leader in the category.
The star point guard’s attachment to triple-doubles guided a colleague to blast him verbally.
Fred VanVleet doesn’t pull any punches after taking a subtle shot at Russell Westbrook
Over the years, Westbrook has drawn a strong association with triple-doubles.
It’s also built a stigma around him regarding his perceived desire to post triple-double numbers on a nightly basis. After Raptors guard Fred VanVleet posted an all-around outing with 27 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds in Saturday’s win over the Golden State Warriors, he took a verbal shot directed at Westbrook.
“I got to be a little more selfish,” said VanVleet, who hasn’t recorded a single triple-double in his career. “I think I can actually get them if I tried to get a triple-double. Every time I get close, I can’t get myself to hunt it the way I need to. My teammates don’t give me the Westbrook treatment where they get out the way so I’m gonna have to have a talk with them about that.”
The Wichita State product has developed into one of the game’s better guards. Despite entering the league as an undrafted player, his hard work earned him recognition as a bonafide backcourt talent and garnered a four-year, $85 million deal.
VanVleet’s comments reference Westbrook getting rebounds that his teammates would typically record. During his time with the Thunder, there were instances where it appeared that his teammates got out of his way to allow him to grab a few more rebounds.
Since then, Westbrook hasn’t been able to shake that negative image of his playing style. VanVleet likely meant for it to be a playful comment, but he isn’t going to garner any friendly interactions from the Lakers star point guard.
Eyeing NBA title contention with the Lakers
Westbrook’s first season with the Lakers has featured rough patches as he’s finding comfort alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The 33-year-old has pushed through tough stretches where he’s struggled with decision-making and forcing the issue to find his spot. In 30 games, Westbrook is averaging 19.4 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 45.2% from the floor and 31.9% from 3-point range.
He has notched 13 double-doubles, including five triple-double outings. His role continues to fluctuate due to injuries to James and Davis. Westbrook’s job will take on increased offensive responsibility with Davis expected to miss at least the next four weeks because of a sprained MCL in his left knee.
The Lakers need Westbrook to become a more consistent part as a highly reliable third option that can lift them forward when James and Davis need a boost. Much of the regular season remains, but Los Angeles must have the star point guard become a massive factor to contend for an NBA title.