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Russell Westbrook is the best teammate in the NBA.
No current superstar has had so much public praise about his intangibles as a teammate. The guy has averaged a triple-double the last two seasons, and is on track to achieve the historic stat-line for a third time in a row.
Just two years ago the dialogue revolved around how amazing it would be to do once. Instead, he is turning this into an every-season run of the mill stat line. Jason Kidd, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson never put up that stat line — ever.
The seven-time All-Star brings his A-game every single night; the fans are never cheated when they go to see number zero.
He’s never taken a single night off, figuratively speaking. His teammates swear by him.
“He always kept it a hunnid,” Jeremey Lamb told Amico Hoops of his ex-teammate. “I was doing good he would tell me. If I was doing bad he would tell me.”
This is the same Lamb who infamously left Westbrook hanging on a high-five at the end of a game in 2015.
“He always like I said helped me through the tough times,” Lamb said. “Being able to see his work ethic, how he got better from year-to-year.”
After being drafted by the Houston Rockets, a team he would never play for, Lamb would play his first three NBA seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He was a key piece in the most famous trade in NBA history; also known as the James Harden trade. They would win 60, 59, and 45 games during his three-season tenure, in 2013-14 making the Western Conference finals.
“The way he just kept working after he made All-Star games and all that,” Lamb said. “It was great to see it, to see that and see greatness and see hard work.”
Some of the hardest players to play with are also the best teammates. They garner the most out of their team.
The difference with Westbrook is it almost appears as if he treats his teammates like they are soldiers in battle. The guys on his side are the only ones he cares about. There is a clear ally and axis.
Don’t expect Westbrook to be one of the players that is always hugging and laughing with the opposing team after games.
“You wouldn’t even know he’s a superstar,” Anthony Morrow told Amico Hoops in August. “My girl and his wife are very close. He’s always with family, his wife, his brother, or his dad and mom. Always around his family. I think that says a lot about him as a person. On the court, he just takes stuff really hard. If he doesn’t play to his standards, it’s almost like he let the team down.”
The Kevin Durant situation was an enigma. Two of the top-5 players in the world playing together — how often do you see that?
In addition it’s not like they totally failed. Durant won an MVP playing alongside Westbrook. If he was that hard to play with, how would KD do that?
On top of the MVP, they also made an NBA Finals appearance together. Steve Nash, Vince Carter, and many other Hall of Fame players never made a Finals. They also played in the daunted Western Conference.
“I feel like they outgrew each other,” Morrow said of Westbrook and Durant back in August. “They tried it for 10 years; they went to the Finals. I tell them all the time after the fact. … I think they just outgrew each other in terms of their personalities and their games.”
Morrow was there from 2014-17, he saw the ups and the ultimate down. His words are powerful. In fact, other than the infamous Durant burner account incident, who has ever spoken out against Westbrook? No one.
Every time a teammate has ever spoken about Westbrook it’s been the ultimate endorsement as a teammate and a man.
“Helped me anyway possible,” Lamb said. “If I needed some advice. Even after I left I hit him up. I said ‘man how do you sustain playing through an 82-game season,’ and he helped me. Definitely a great player, but a great person off the court.”
The proof is in the pudding.
Playing with Westbrook this season is helping George have an MVP-caliber season, and might be the front-runner to win Defensive Player of The Year. He’s playing with confidence we haven’t seen in years if ever.
Victor Oladipo? He was seen as a bust.
After playing with Westbrook in 2017, he was traded to the Pacers. Last season, Oladipo made his forst All-Star game.
Instead of saying his recent dominance is because he doesn’t play with Westbrook anymore, what if it’s because he learned how to lead a team after spending a season with Westbrook? Brandon Gales, a barber in Bloomington, Ind., cut Oldapio’s hair during his three seasons at Indiana University, and he said he thinks Westbrook made Oladipo better.
Westbrook and George (who spurned his hometown Lakers to stay with Westbrook) have led the Thunder to an impressive 29-18 record and sit as the third seed in the wild Wes.
Because they have two-superstars, and one of them happens to be the best teammate in the league.