As the 2020 -2021 NBA season gets underway, I am reminded that journeyman center Steven Adams should have more hardware in his trophy room.
Even more, he and newly acquired Washington Wizards guard, Russell Westbrook should have shared at least one honor, the 2017 NBA MVP.
Had they done so; it would have been the first time the NBA MVP was shared by teammates. Even more, it would have correctly signaled that one man’s quest for statistical immorality was aided and abetted by his own personal accomplice like the bottle in a DUI.
In all my years of loving, consuming, and talking about NBA basketball, I’ve never seen a more concerted effort to stat pad ever in my life. The only rational explanation for what I saw (and still seeing) is this. Then Thunder starting center, Steven Adams was a billion-dollar hand model in his native country.
Unfortunately, for his fantasy league owners, his contract apparently prohibited him from rebounding the ball. This of course was great news for Russell Westbrook and his fantasy league owners. In the 214 minutes played in the 2016 Western Conference Semifinals, Adams led the Thunder with 71 rebounds.
He and the rest of the Thunder frontline killed the Spurs frontline with strength, effort, and athleticism. In the 220 minutes played, triple double savant Russell Westbrook had 39 rebounds. The next season, sans Kevin Durant via an unsettling departure to the rival Golden State Warriors, opponents’ missed shots ended up in Westbrook’s hands 707 times.
The next closest guy? Steven Adams with 323. Did Adams forget how to rebound over the off-season? I don’t think so. In the 2019-20 NBA season, Adams averaged less minutes a game and played in less games too, yet managed to average more rebounds per game (9.3 to 9.0). Thus far, in the 2020-21 NBA season, while playing less minutes per game, Adams is grabbing the same amount of rebounds per game (9) as he had in 2017.
Consequently, in the 2017 season, I think Westbrook averaging a triple double became a plausible feat after a handful of triple doubles over the course of the season and Adams, much like the rest of the then Thunder frontline, decided, “let’s do this for Westbrook”. It was stat padding, albeit a team effort but stat padding, nonetheless.
Either that, or Steven Adams was moonlighting as a hand model in New Zealand with a billion-dollar insurance policy covering phalanges to carpals, left and right. Ultimately, Westbrook and Adams, you were both the real MVP. This season, Westbrook’s new team is the Washington Wizards of course. In six games thus far with the Wizards, Thomas Bryant has recorded two 5 and 7 rebound games respectively, a 3 rebound game and a 6 rebound game.
For those who weren’t math majors at an institution of higher learning or those who are just math averse, that’s a per game average of 5.5 rebounds per game. How many rebounds per game is Westbrook averaging thus far? 12.8. Of course, it should be noted that Russ did so in less games than Thomas. Still, the fact remains, Thomas Bryant should immediately get a deal with Aveeno or Dove. He’ll get paid more from them anyway. And he won’t have to pretend to rebound the ball either.