The NBA media can’t shut up about Russell Westbrook’s recent run of play, and for good reason. He’s a beast. His body parts keep exploding, yet he keeps coming back stronger. The basketball gods said “we’re going to ruin Derrick Rose and Westbrook. They’re too good. And we’re assholes.” Rose went down, but Westbrook threw up two middle fingers and continued to rampage through the league. He’s a monster. One of the best players in the league. Yet, he still makes plays like this:
There he is, throwing up an airball. It happens, even to the greats. Thankfully for the Thunder, Enes Kanter grabbed the rebound and put it back in. OR DID HE.
Assist? What?! Call me the Andy Rooney of basketball, but if that’s an assist Westbrook’s whole “streak” is tainted. Westbrook makes a move to try to get the rebound, for Christ sakes. Imagine how mad Nick Young would be if he found out that all his terrible missed fadeaways that somehow led to putbacks could have been called assists? How can we take any of these numbers seriously? We can’t. NBA stat keepers are like the NSA. They track everything, catalog it, and manipulate the data to promote their agenda. No one can be trusted. I had to fight back, so I did the only thing I could do. I spent 10+ hours ignoring real responsibilities, braving the unforgivably bad NBA League Pass player, and watching every Westbrook assist from his last five games. I had to see how many of them were flaming piles of inaccurate horse shit. ( I might be a little too hyped up after watching Citizen Four.)
I found two assists that made me go “eh, that’s fishy” and three that made me think we might as well just scrap the stat altogether. Somehow all the bad ones involved Kanter. I think part of the trade paperwork stated that if Kanter scored in the halfcourt and Westbrook was anywhere near him when it happened, RWB gets the assist.
The NBA rule book says that an assist should be “credited to a player tossing the last pass leading directly to a field goal, only if the player scoring the goal responds by demonstrating immediate reaction to the basket.” That definition is vague enough to make the dodgiest political press secretary proud. I’ve always thought that assists should be given when the scoring player either catches a pass and shoots without dribbling, or he takes one dribble but it’s obvious that the passer set him up for the basket.
With that as my criteria, here are a few recent Westbrook “assists”, from least to most egregious:
Morrow takes a dribble, throws a pump fake, and hits a midrange jumper while getting fouled. Sure, RWB hit him on the hands with the pass, but Morrow did quite a bit after that play to create the score. In the grand scheme of things, this is not so bad.
I’ll admit that Westbrook hits Kanter in an open position under the basket, but the fact that this turned into a score had a hell of a lot more to do with Kanter. He pivoted, threw three pump fakes, and then finished with a lefty reverse around two defenders.
Oh man, here’s where the blood starts to boil. Kanter, spins, takes two dribbles, and finishes with a reverse just over Alex Len’s hands. Westbrook’s role in this play topped out at crossing half court, passing, and silently applauding his new friend Enes.
Good god. One dribble from the elbow and finish over two defenders, while getting fouled? Maybe focusing on assists is the wrong thing, and the real lesson is that Enes Kanter is the next Tim Duncan.
Enes strikes again! This time he merely pump fakes, takes two dribbles, then hits a one handed spinning fadeaway over the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. But that pass, right?
Again, Westbrook’s amazing. I just hope that with the advanced stat revolution we can start to clean some of this up. It’s not fair that if Westbrook was the inbounder on this play instead of Brad Sellars, he would have been given an assist.