With Historic Season, Westbrook Earns 2nd Straight All-NBA First Team Selection.
All season long, Russell Westbrook made fans feel something when they walked into an arena, tuned into a game or checked out highlights. The relentlessness, the motor, the tenacity and the never-say-die attitude were palpable each time he touched the floor. The statistics and the wins took care of themselves due to Westbrook’s effort on the floor, and on Thursday so did one of the biggest accolades the NBA can bestow upon a player: an All-NBA First Team selection.
Westbrook was named to the 2016-17 All-NBA First Team, a year after cracking that illustrious group for the first time in 2015-16. Over his previous five seasons before that from 2010-11 to 2014-2015, Westbrook made All-NBA second team four times, with the only time he missed coming in the 2013-14 season when he was recovering from a knee injury and played just 46 games.
By receiving 99 First Team votes and 498 total voting points, Westbrook tied LeBron James for the second-most points amongst recipients. The honor rewards Westbrook for his play on the floor this past season, which can be told through the stats: in 81 games played he joined Oscar Roberston as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double on a league-best 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds (10th in the NBA), 10.4 assists (third in the NBA) and 1.63 steals in 34.6 minutes per contest.
“Everybody knows how we feel about him. He’s a transcendent player. I think he’s a futuristic player,” Thunder General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti said. “I think he’s a tremendous competitor, and we’re fortunate to have him.”
Westbrook set a new NBA record with 42 triple-doubles on the season and recorded triple-doubles in seven consecutive games on two separate occasions (11/25-12/9 and 3/22-4/4), becoming the first player in NBA history to accomplish the feat. He was named Western Conference Player of the Month for both November and February and earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors four times.
It was what the Thunder superstar dealt with to start the season off the floor, in the locker room throughout the year and on the court as well that was equally as impressive to observers. Missing three of the team’s four top scorers from 2015-16, Westbrook helped the Thunder steady the organization by guiding a group of youngsters to 47 wins and a sixth seed in the Western Conference.
Without making excuses, pointing fingers or showing anything other than loyalty to his guys, Westbrook went out every night with a mindset of winning and making his teammates better. Although the Thunder’s season didn’t end in a championship, Westbrook showed that the journey matters and that it is a great joy for fans to follow the team on a night-in, night-out basis.
Though this selection for the All-NBA First Team will certainly be meaningful, to Westbrook it’s a mere blip as he lines up his offseason. He’ll approach it the same as always – with the full intention to get better as a leader through film study and work with teammates, then on the floor by continuing to add to his game.
“There’s different things that I can improve on,” Westbrook said. “Just finding different ways to make my teammates better. There’s games where I can look at the film and see how I can get my teammates better, making sure my leadership is always at top tier.”
“Basketball-wise, I’m going to constantly keep doing the same thing and just finding ways to improve on shooting, balance and different things, and constantly keep expanding my game to where I need to,” Westbrook continued.
It’s his never-ending pursuit of greatness, for himself and the team, which defines Westbrook’s spirit. The NBA recognized it today, something Thunder fans have long seen, and are eager to witness again come the fall.
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer