NEW YORK — Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan is buying into the Russell Westbrook hype.
The Thunder point guard is one-tenth of a rebound away from averaging a triple-double on the season. Donovan admitted Monday morning Westbrook could end the season as the second man in NBA history to average a double-digits in points, assists, and rebounds.
"Yeah, he could do it. He could do it," Donovan said. "I’m not gonna say he is or isn’t because I think the more important thing is Russell is winning, but he’s a guy that has great impact on generating assists. He has a great impact on rebounding the basketball, and he can score. So, there’s certainly a possibility that can happen. Obviously what he’s done this point in time has been pretty remarkable."
Oscar Robertson famously became the only player ever to average a triple-double for a full season when he put up 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists in 1961-62. Westbrook is averaging 31.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 11.2 assists heading into Monday's game at the New York Knicks.
Westbrook, who doesn't watch loads of basketball in his free time, hasn't made an exception for Robertson.
"I definitely met him before, but never watched him play," Westbrook said. "I'm pretty sure he was a tough one to guard, obviously."
For all the talk of Westbrook's numbers on the outside, though, Donovan says those who wear Thunder jerseys don't acknowledge Westbrook's statistical prowess, even if he does admit "there needs to be a conversation about that" publicly.
"I really mean this," Donovan prefaced. "Outside of you guys talking about it, no one really talks about it. Whether it’s preparation for the next game or where we gotta get better or what happened that we need to improve in or what tweaks we need to make offensively, we’re kinda focused on those things. And I get the numbers that Russell’s putting up, and they’re record-setting, and they’re amazing."
If Westbrook pulls down 11 or more rebounds against the Knicks, he will leave New York averaging a triple-double through the season's first 19 games.
• Westbrook and Rose: Westbrook and Knicks point guard Derrick Rose were selected three picks apart in the 2008 NBA Draft, Rose first and Westbrook fourth.
The two have gotten together for offseason workouts in the past. And though Westbrook says that doesn't happen as often now, they did rekindle over this past summer.
"With Derrick being hurt a few years, it’s been tough to kinda get in the gym in that aspect," Westbrook said Monday morning. "But this summer [we] got in once or twice in the gym. Just to be able to do that is always good for me and good for him as well."
Rose has dealt with a collection of injuries ever since winning MVP in 2010-11, and his play has fallen off over that time. At his peak, he and Westbrook garnered comparisons as the NBA's two most explosive point guards.
Still, Westbrook says there's one constant to their workouts.
"We just compete," he said. "We make sure we get our work done."