NBA

Lonzo Ball gets number two and Westbrook’s back


Welcome to Triple-Double Watch, a weekly check-in on everyone’s favorite arbitrary milestone of round, base-ten numbers.

In last week’s edition, I called Lonzo Ball the “triple-double prince who was promised.” Ball, whose fate as the Lakers’ second overall pick was spoken into existence, compiled a triple-double for the second week in a row.

His first broke the record of youngest player to ever achieve the feat. His follow-up made him the sixth player to log multiple triple-doubles in their first 20 games. Per Elias Sports, the other five to do it were Oscar Robertson (three games (of course)), Ben Simmons (nine), Art “Hambone” Williams (10), Magic Johnson (12, *eyes emoji*), and Connie Hawkins (14). Anytime you’re on the same list as a guy named Hambone, you’re obviously doing something right.

While that’s quite the accomplishment, Ball continues to exhibit the typical struggles of a rookie (though atypical of what we’ve been told to expect from a Big Baller).

Here’s Ball’s game log since Nov. 11:

Inside that triple-double sandwich lies a bunch of moldy lunchmeat. Ball has the all-around profile and passing skill to thrive in the NBA, but needs to develop a consistent shot to become great and avoid the games like he had against the 76ers. On the season, he’s shooting 31.3 percent from the field and 22.8 percent from 3. Those numbers are akin to rookie-year Rajon Rondo.

With all the ballyhoo surrounding him, Ball constantly faces heightened scrutiny for a twenty-year-old. Wielding the sword of the Big Baller Brand cuts both ways.

After a quiet 20 days, the TD king held court on Monday night, making his glorious return to this space and hearts around the league. Russell Westbrook chalked up his fifth triple-double in as many weeks and put some distance between himself and the rest of the 2017-18 leaderboard.

At 7-9, Oklahoma City continues to sputter along in the fledgling season, but Westbrook’s statistically-opulent reprise makes the world feel right. Like the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. Or Gregg Popovich berating a sideline reporter’s banal questions during a halftime interview.

Westbrook doesn’t look like his normal, assertive self as the Thunder’s makeover has been less than seamless. In these first 16 games of experimental integration, Westbrook is averaging his lowest point total since his second season. Something’s gotta change because so far, we haven’t gotten peak Westbrook or peak Thunder. Hopefully soon they find their rhythm and it coincides with Westbrook, our patron saint of counting stats, churning out regular triple-doubles again.

The NBA schedules no games for Thanksgiving, acknowledging it’s a day for football and family. And pie. Lots of pie. Thanksgiving in the preeminent pie holiday, which arguably makes it the best holiday. At my house, we have four mainstays every year: the seasonally-relevant pumpkin and apple, the alluring tanginess of cherry, and the wildcard, the swirling contrast of lemon-chocolate. They’re all wonderful and make me happy for different reasons. So enjoy the food, the family time, and use those round, delectable, (usually) fruit-filled pastries to plug that basketball-sized hole in your day. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!





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