OKLAHOMA CITY -- Needing 16 rebounds Wednesday night to become the first player to average a triple-double more than once, Russell Westbrook sounded off on skeptics and the stats-padding narrative about his historic numbers.
"A lot people make jokes about whatever, stat-padding or going to get rebounds," Westbrook said in an answer largely unrelated to the question that was asked. "If people could get 20 rebounds every night, they would. If people could get 15 rebounds, they would. People that's talking or saying whatever they need to say, they should try doing it and see how hard it is.
"Since everybody wants to be talking, I'm tired of hearing the same old rebound this, stealing rebounds, all this s---. I take pride in what I do. I come out and play, and I get the ball faster than someone else gets to it. That's what it is. If you don't want it, I'm gonna get it. Simple as that."
Westbrook entered the Oklahoma City Thunder's final two games needing 34 rebounds and 12 assists to secure a triple-double average for the second consecutive season. Against the Miami Heat on Monday, he dished out 13 assists and hauled in 18 rebounds, setting the stage for the regular-season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies. A victory could help the Thunder's seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.
"I think he'll be the first to tell you that's not how he approaches games," teammate Paul George said when asked if he wanted to see Westbrook go for it. "Russ is a guy that whatever the team needs, whatever he feels he needs to do, he's gonna do. That just naturally happens that he gets those triple-doubles.
"But I don't think he's looking at tonight as a milestone that he has to get to for that triple-double average. In fact, he's probably going to go out [and] just do it naturally because he knows that's what we need from him."
On Tuesday, Carmelo Anthony joked about Westbrook "stealing" rebounds from teammates, but pointed out Westbrook's rebounding is a considerable positive for the team.
"Sometimes you want to fight him a little bit, push him out of the way," Anthony said. "For me, it's good ... to have a guard like that to be able to crack back and get rebounds. He steals sometimes. He steals rebounds sometimes. But any time you can have a guard like that to come back and rebound the way he does, because we want to push the break, when he gets it off the rebound he's able to jump-start the break and a lot of good things happen from that."
Westbrook's gaudy rebounding numbers have caught the attention of some; Thunder center Steven Adams routinely boxes out his man and leaves the rebound to Westbrook. But it's by design, Thunder coach Billy Donovan says, to get the ball into Westbrook's hands faster to break into transition.
"The game will tell you what you need to do," Westbrook said. "Getting loose rebounds, loose balls, getting on the break is something that's very, very beneficial to our team and something that in my opinion you can't stop. Getting a rebound, pushing out, getting it up quick, because you can't scout for that. And it's something that's great for our team.
"You do what you need to do to win. Tonight, if scoring is what it is, then that's what is. Rebounding, that's what it is. If it's passing, that's what is. Defending -- my job is to do everything. And that's what I do. I go out, do everything, and I do it on a night-in-and-night-out basis. Nobody else do the same s--- I do every night. Simple as that."
Last season, Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double, while also breaking Robertson's mark for triple-doubles in a season. This season, Westbrook has recorded 25 triple-doubles and is averaging 25.6 points, 10.1 assists and 9.9 rebounds per game. The Thunder are 20-5 when Westbrook has a triple-double this season.
"He's there every night, he's healthy, he's ready to play and he produces," forward Nick Collison said. "So I think the triple-doubles are a result of that. It's just him consistently playing well every night he's out there over long stretches of time. I don't care too much about people and whatever they're saying about his stats and how he gets them."