Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

So Are the Warriors the G.O.A.T. Team?

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

The season is over. There are no more games to be played. What are fans supposed to do? Simple. They argue.

Maybe the talk regarding who’s the best player of all-time, Michael Jordan or LeBron James, has subsided (for a while) but who’s the best baller in the NBA now – LeBron James or Kevin Durant – has intensified. Aside from that discussion, there is another brewing – which is the best team ever?

It had been a topic of conversation for several reasons. One was the season prior Golden State had won a record 73 games. The Warriors faithful claimed that, had it not been for Draymond Green swiping at an opponent’s privates one time too many, they’d have been two-time defending champs. As if that argument isn’t enough, the franchise added free agent Durant during the postseason.

The Dubs blew through the regular season, their biggest adversity a major one – the loss of their leader. Head coach Steve Kerr had to sit down, literally and figuratively, due to adverse reactions to (a botched?) back surgery. Note: I’ve endured 10 back surgeries over the past 30 years so I can seriously empathize with him. As they did last year after Kerr’s initial surgery, the Warriors rallied around an interim coach – last season assistant Luke Walton, this time Mike Brown.

Golden State showed how strong a franchise it has, as well as how talented a bunch they are, when Walton led the squad, going undefeated throughout the first couple dozen contests and 39 wins against only four defeats. That showing certainly aided him in becoming head man with the Lakers. His replacement, Brown, might have one-upped his predecessor by blowing through 11 playoff games when further complications forced Kerr out of action.

The debate over which is the best team ever picked up steam when the Warriors took a commanding 3-0 lead in the Finals, pulling out a close win in Game 3 in Cleveland, raising their playoff record to a spotless 15-0. Just when it looked as though the Warriors had an ironclad lock on the mythical title, they lost to the Cavs in Game 4. And not only lost but got embarrassed! Cleveland buried the Golden State by 21, scoring 49 points in the first quarter and 86 for the half (both Finals records). Fans of certain past Celtics, Lakers, Spurs, Knicks and 76ers teams all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Going 16-0 and breezing through an entire playoffs would have been hard to argue.

Other factors that make it so difficult to choose an all-time best is which rules are in effect in a fictional game between this current group of Warriors and, say, the 1985-86 Celtics? Or the 1995-96 Bulls? How about the 1986-87 Lakers? 1982-83 “fo-fo-fo” (actually “fo-fi-fo”) 76ers? The rules of the game and how it was officiated are obviously significant factors when comparing teams from different eras. Another issue to be considered is the use of the three-point line strategically. Better yet, whether or not the three-point line existed! Hint: read on.

Today, what’s in vogue in determining which player or team is performing well has nothing to do with actually watching players or teams actually play. It’s analytics. Now, while I’m an “old head” (as opposed to a “stat head”) fan of the professional game, I also majored in, and taught, math. Yet, for the life of me I can’t understand how analytics has overtaken the sports world. There certainly is some validity to all the stats that have made their way into athletics but it still remains extremely subjective.

Googling “best NBA teams ever” I came across an article entitled, NBA Metrics 101: Where Do 2016-17 Warriors Rank Among All-Time Greatest Teams? According to the criteria used, the most recent champs rank third on the list, behind only the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and the, alleged, best team of all-time … the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks! I’m old enough to remember that team which, behind Oscar Robertson, Lew Alcindor (later, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and a solid core, was definitely a formidable ballclub. Yet, the best ever? (For the record, there was no three-point line then).

There does seem to be an asterisk, however. At the end of the article, the author does include the following: Note: Postseason advanced metrics only date back to 1974, so the Bucks’ postseason Team Rating is estimated. It was calculated proportionally by using margins of victory and regular-season Team Rating. The Bucks won the argument and they played prior to the age the statistics used to determine the best team were invented!

That alone ought to give the definitive answer to which is the best NBA team of all-time:

“There is no ‘best ever’ team.”

But it does make for great banter among fans. Enjoy it whenever you argue – and go home knowing that whichever squad you claim is best – you’re right.

Random Thoughts Leading Up to NBA Finals

Friday, May 26th, 2017

After an anticlimactic lead up to the Finals, most NBA fans (and ABC TV execs) get what everyone expected (wanted) – Golden State vs. Cleveland (the rubber match). The following are ideas that are currently being bantered about:

* The Warriors will win because as, TNT’s Kenny “The Jet” Smith pointed out, “The Warriors were up 3-1 last year and added, arguably, the second best player in the game.”

* What kept the Cavs from almost certainly going down in five last year was when Draymond Green, the self-proclaimed voice of the Dubs, aka their biggest trash talker, lost a battle with self-discipline. LeBron James, realizing his guys were about to go down 1-3, “showed Green up” by stepping over the prone Warrior. Rather than letting it go and begin preparations for a close out win – followed by another parade – Green reached up and took a swipe at LBJ’s privates. While it wasn’t a particularly violent move, i.e. not nearly so bad as the past two incidents in which kicked foes, it forced the league office’s hands. Dray-Dray earned a one-game suspension. The Cavs took the gift and, eventually, brought home Cleveland’s first championship since 1948.

* Another point for those who see the Western Conference champs winning it all is that Steph Curry will be completely healthy. Although he never admitted it during, or following, last year’s meltdown, it was later disclosed that Curry was quite a bit less than 100%. After seeing him perform in this year’s playoffs, there seems to be no health issues with GSW’s sharpshooting and ball handling whiz.

* In case you were ready to make other plans for the first couple weeks in June, hold on just a second. Experts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal (OK, Charles, we know “only God is an expert”) picked the Cavs to win it all again. Shaq, however, began his soliloquy by saying it was too early to make a pick, that he wanted to watch the first two games before making his selection. When told that, had he used that strategy last year, he certainly would have chosen the Warriors, he began pontificating (actually his comments sounded more like BS but, as anyone who’s ever watched Shaq knows, admitting he was wrong is not ever part of his make up). After Chuck picked the Cavs – and Kenny and Ernie Johnson went with the Warriros – Shaq joined Barkley’s side. Few fans would have been surprised if the Big Diesel had said he wanted to watch the first six games – and then make a prediction that Game 7 was a toss up.

*After all, Cleveland has the best player in the world (and, after last night, the player with the most playoff points in NBA history). In addition, Kyrie Irving looks unstoppable and, according to several talking heads, Kevin Love is playing the best ball of his career. Tristan Thompson is certainly as good as any center the Warriors can put on the floor. Two other thoughts to keep in mind are that the Cavs can match the Warriors when it comes to three point shooters and Cleveland’s bench is generally considered deeper than Golden State’s.

* How are we supposed to assess the Boston Celtics’ season? They played well enough to gain the #1 seed in the East (good), came back from dropping the first two home games against #8 Chicago (bad) only win that series (good) although without Rajon Rondo getting hurt most likely would not have (bad). They did get to the Eastern Conference Finals (good) but, once again, lost the first two home games (bad). Then, with the series having “sweep” written all over it, they rallied to win Game 3 (good) after being behind by 21 points in the third quarter (bad). Heading home in a close-out game, they allowed the Cavs 43 points in the first quarter (really bad), 135 for the game (ditto) and never led at any time in any of their three home games (pitiful). But … they do have the first pick in the upcoming draft (good – depending on which guy they take and how he turns out).

*Something to consider: With the abundance of talent that the Cavs have, Brad Stevens led the Celts to the #1 seed in the East. Taking nothing away from the three candidates, how is he not in the mix for Coach-of-the-Year honors?

* As for who most folks feel is the favorite, Golden State could easily have not even made it to the Finals had Kawhi Leonard (the most likeable MVP candidate) not injured his ankle – with the Spurs comfortably ahead in Game 1. The Dubs have had a great deal of luck with injuries to key players on nearly every team they’ve played in the playoffs for the past three years. The analysts all claim the Warriors are a fabulous defensive team. Offensively, they can be nothing short of sensational, although they can be careless with the ball. Those type of turnovers could doom them against a squad as formidable as Cleveland. Still, most feel they’ll regain the title.

So who’s my pick? I’ll take a page out of Shaq’s book and decide:

“Right after Adam Silver hands out the Larry O’Brien trophy.”

 

 

 

How in the World Did the Celts Win Game 3?

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Our younger son’s girlfriend was in town. We had planned to go to dinner Sunday night but realized it would coincide with Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavaliers had absolutely pasted the Celts twice – in Boston – so, with the series moving to Cleveland, we decided to watch the first half, then go to dinner.

It proved to be a wise move, as the Cavs continued where they left off – so we took off for The Cheesecake Factory. There was a 15-minute wait before we we seated. No mention of the game was made. While that might seem somewhat normal for four people, consider that I had a 35-year career as a basketball coach and Alex had played hoops from his fourth year on the planet, through elementary, junior high, high school, every summer in between, four years in college and a year professionally in Australia.

After we got to our table and were chatting it up while waiting for our soup, I noticed that, across the room, Game 3 was on the restaurant’s television. I wondered aloud how much of a blowout the game was when Alex’s sweetie looked at her phone and said, “The game’s tied.”

I gave her my best New Jersey response. “Get outta here.”

She held up her phone. Alex and I bolted across the floor to the TV and, sure enough, it was 95-95. No problem, though, the Cavs hit a three pointer and the earth remained on its axis. However, a couple Celtics’ buckets, sandwiched around a Cleveland turnover, and Boston took the lead – its first since the score was 5-3 one minute into the game.

As everyone is now aware, the Celtics, minus their best player, pulled off the most unlikely upset since Truman over Dewey. The talking heads finally had something to pontificate upon, other than how the Finals were going to be two teams that were undefeated heading into it.

So, how did this monumental comeback happen?

“I have no idea.”

And it took me two days to come up with that answer.

An Instance When Stat Heads Were a Little Too Much into Their Brilliance

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

There are infinitely more people who want to be involved in athletics than are talented enough to do so. One way to become part of the sports world is to create a niche, preferably one that has yet to be “invented.”

Back when the Celtics dominated (1950s-60s), it’s common knowledge that Red Auerbach was the head coach/mastermind of the franchise. Less known is that, during that era, teams couldn’t afford a staff of assistants, scouts, conditioning coaches and a large front office. In fact, Auerbach held many other roles, e.g. general manager, head of scouting, personnel director and travel agent.

Not too long after the Celtics’ dynasty, assistant coaches were introduced to the league. Trainers and doctors obviously were necessary. Then, in the early ’90s, Tim Grgurich left UNLV and became the first “player development” coach in the NBA. In today’s jargon, players are referred to as assets. It only makes sense for professional clubs to improve the productivity and value of their assets. Soon, every team had one. Today, it’s commonplace for franchises to employ a couple player development coaches, along with interns who shag balls and bang against players outside of actual team practice sessions (to keep everyone fresh and decrease injuries).
Everyone I’ve ever met who worked for an NBA team falls in love with their job. It’s exciting, gives employees a certain amount of fame (ego for some who forget where they came from/who they really are) and the perks are incredible – especially now that so many owners are billionaires (unlike when Auerbach patrolled the sidelines). For those in the travel party, per diem is (I think) $135/day (it was $127/day in 2015 but, with the new collective bargaining agreement, how could anybody expect to get by on such a meager amount)? In addition there is usually food in the locker room and on the plane. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that life? There is also the swag – the gear, shoes, supplements, most everything imaginable.
Many players employ personal trainers, chefs, nutritionists (don’t forget agents) – and why not? When the new CBA kicks in next year, the average player salary will be $9 million per year, with superstars making upwards of $35-$40 million – over multiple years. With that much money, so few spots (approximately 450 – 30 teams, 15 players per) and a zillion guys trying to steal your job, it’s vital to be at the top of your game.
So the question is, how does a non-player get involved in this sweet business? Something called analytics is the way to go. Come up with different ways to evaluate performance – for a team’s current players as well as those it’s considering adding to the roster via trades, free agency or the draft – and a person becomes not only valuable, but indispensable. P.S. It works for radio and TV also, as more and more stations are employing passionate “stat heads”, i.e. guys who have no physical skill – we used to call them wannabes – but have memorized minutiae so now they have actually found a place in the sports world.
Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane is the pioneer of the fields of analytics, making the low budget Bay Area team competitive, while turning heads of other franchises – and not only those playing baseball. His counterpart in the NBA is most likely Houston’s Daryl Morey (with a honorable mention going to Sam Hinkie). Where there used to be just “stats,” there are currently advanced stats which predict much more than the old ones guys like me are used to, e.g. eFG% is a better version of FG% (just don’t ask me why but, in a nutshell, advanced stats are a much greater indicator of overall player value). Keep in mind, though, they can’t measure heart which is why putting a team together will never be an exact science.
I tell people “I’m not from this century” (by the way – I mean BTW – it’s not something I’m proud of). However, anything that improves the effectiveness and enjoyment of the game, for players, coaches and fans, is most likely a good thing. All that said, sometimes these guys go a tad overboard. The latest absolutely useless statistic fed to the listening and viewing public occurred following Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, in which the San Antonio Spurs blew a 25-point lead to the Golden State Warriors (see my last blog – Kawhi Leonard’s injury most likely had something to do with the outcome).

The analytics’ folks gave us this gem to chew on: “The Spurs were 316-0 when leading by at least 25 points under Gregg Popovich before today (regular season & playoffs).”

Fascinating! I have just one question:

“What is every other coach’s record when leading by at least 25 points (regular season & playoffs)?”

Predicting the Future

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

One of the greatest learning tools – that can be done while driving for those of you who enjoy multi-tasking – is listening to audio books. I got into them during my four-year tenure at USC. And I’ve been continuing ever since.

As everybody knows, Los Angeles traffic can be as paralyzing to a motorist as any city in the world. When I was on the basketball staff with the Trojans, we practiced at 5:45 am. For the first couple years, we lived in Pasadena, about a mile straight up the hill from the Rose Bowl. I’d leave our house at 5:00 am and get to the basketball office at 5:25. On my way home, if I’d leave the office at 6:00 pm, it would take me an hour-and-a-half to get home. Audio books came to the rescue. I felt smarter when I got out of the car than before I got in – which seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

Fast forward to my most recent selection, a tome entitled Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman. It was subtitled An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations and there were some gems I gleaned from it (although 16 cassettes left quite a bit of time in between lessons). One, in particular was his explanation of Moore’s Law. Over half a century ago, Gordon Moore predicted that every year the number of transistors that could fit on a single chip of silicon would double, meaning the consumer would get twice as much computing power for slightly less money (later, he changed the prediction to doubling approximately every two years).

When I taught freshman algebra years ago, here’s how I would explain exponential growth to our students. I’d tell them to make a deal with their parents. “Tell them you only want allowance for one month – and nothing after that ever again. Here’s how you’d like your parents to give you your allowance. One penny on the first day of the month, then double it every day after that until the end of the month. So on the second day, they’ll give you two cents, on the third day, you’ll get four cents, eight cents on the fourth day and so on. Give them a break and use a month in which there are only 30 days.”

I’d have a volunteer who had a calculator and would follow the command: “start with .01, then hit x2, then =, then repeat.” Following those instructions, you’ll notice that, halfway through the month, i.e. on the 15th, the number is only $163.84 – which doesn’t seem too bad considering it’s the last allowance the parents will ever have to fork over. However, when the pattern is continued, the parents will be paying over $5 million just on the last day of the month. Every student is astonished.

The way Moore’s Law is explained in Friedman’s book it is just as remarkable. It begins by saying that Intel engineers pointed out that if a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle improved at the same rate as the microchips, the numbers would be as follows: today its speed would be 300,000 mph, gas mileage two million miles per gallon and it would cost four cents! 

There are several stories and quotes throughout the book. One of the most telling is something the late Warren Bennis, former head of the Leadership Institute at USC, said:

“The company of the future will have two employees – a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to make sure the man doesn’t touch the equipment.”

 

 

Maybe They Should Have Stuck to Basketball

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

A high school coaching friend of mine shared a story of taking his basketball team to a tournament in San Diego. Since it was a parochial school, a couple members of the clergy accompanied the squad. Needless to say, everybody was looking forward to spending time during the winter in such a beautiful area. They had a really good team so, the general feeling was, if they could just take care of business on the court, it would be a trip all concerned would be talking about for years.

And that’s exactly how it turned out – except not exactly how they anticipated.

They got there a day early and decided to take the boys on an educational trip to the Maritime Museum. The entire group took a tour of the facility. When they got to the dolphin exhibit, the guide explained to the travel party that many, many years ago, the dolphin was considered “the protector of seamen.”

Upon hearing that statement, one of the players (who happened to be standing in between the nun and the priest who made the trip), innocently – innocently? – made the comment:

I thought the condom was the protector of semen.”

 

Lavar Ball’s Name Is on the Lips of Many

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

A couple days ago I got a call from long-time friend and former boss George Raveling. As is always the case, there’s always a little banter to our conversation. This time I was the one who initiated it, referencing his remark about Lavar Ball being “the worst thing that happened to basketball in 100 years.”

George told me the line came about when a reporter asked his opinion about the patriarch of the Ball family and his risky (foolish?) demand of a billion dollar endorsement deal with a shoe and apparel company. I told him that what shocked me more than anything was that, of every controversial statement I’ve ever heard anyone ever make, his was the only one in which there was no criticism of it – that not one person disagreed with the Nike executive’s assessment or took him to task for making it.

To be honest, I haven’t read or heard every comment made globally but, usually, when someone comes out with such a strong indictment on a topic or individual, someone, somewhere challenges it – especially with all that is posted on social media. Like I said, to my knowledge, that has yet to happen. George agreed that, in no time in his life was he in such a majority but did admit to me, “If I had to do it all over again, I’d revise the number of years – to about 30.”

Since everybody got the gist of his point, I laughed at his reflecting on it. “Yeah,” I said. “The Boston College point shaving scandal would be considered worse – and certainly the murder of that Baylor player by his teammate, and the subsequent attempted cover up, (which actually occurred only 14 years ago) – would qualify as worse, but I don’t think anybody felt your remark needed revising.”

At another venue last week, my close friend, Dave Severns, currently a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers, was one of the speakers at a basketball clinic held at the facility on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles. Dave has coached at every level – junior high, high school, junior college, Division II, D-I and the NBA, as well as Nike skills academies, Michael Jordan’s Flight School and camps and clinics throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Suffice to say he has a more than credible background in the world of hoops.

Following his introduction at Cal State LA, he displayed his quick sense of humor, too. He began his presentation … but abruptly stopped. He began looking around, pivoting a full 360 before looking at an administrator from the university and deadpanned a line about one of its former players:

“Where’s Lavar Ball’s retired jersey?”

 

A List I’ve Yet to See Published

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Congrats to Sergio Garcia on winning the Master’s. As soon as he did, fans read the inevitable comment: who’s the best golfer never to have won a major?

The early leader is Rickie Fowler. How can a guy with all that talent not win a major? After all, he’s already 28 years old! As if winning a major – against an entire field of professionals – ought to be something that should be accomplished. At any age. It’s not as if players aren’t trying. Or guys who haven’t won majors but have a boatload of tour event championships can’t handle the pressure.

In the past fans have seen – and now that social media has become a part of our culture – have posted, their own version, independent of how uneducated, of the best to have never won a …

Charles Barkley, John Stockton and Karl Malone are always mentioned when discussing “rings” and uber-talented players who never earned one. The facts that 1) only one team per season can do so and 2) those guys played during an era when Michael Jordan and the Bulls had a stranglehold on NBA titles is often mentioned – as an afterthought – still doesn’t seem to let them off the hook.

Similarly for Dan Marino. Winning a championship in a team sport, when there are so so many teammates involved who have a large say in the success of the team, is simply something that even some of the most talented athletes are able to do. Just like winning one in an individual sport – when the competitor is going up against the whole field – is a cakewalk.

Women aren’t exempt from the list. During a recent tennis broadcast, I heard a commentator refer to Pam Shriver as the best female tennis player never to have won a Grand Slam event. Anyone who knows even a little tennis history understands that Shriver played in an era of a couple of competitors (Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova) who showed no mercy against their opponents.

Nor are coaches excluded from such scrutiny. Now that Mark Few was in the Final Four, Sean Miller has been anointed “best coach never to have led a team to the Final Four.” If you know anything about playing or coaching such mention ought to be a badge of honor more than an albatross.

Not surprisingly, the one list that has escaped the fans’ eyes is:

“The greatest sportswriter to never have won a Pulitzer.”

My (Most Likely) Unpopular Take on the National Championship Game

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

The season of NCAA hoops culminates with the NCAA championship tilt. This year’s entry was a pretty brutal game to watch. One team shot 36% from the floor, 15% from three and 58% from the free throw line. The winning team. The University of North Carolina won their sixth national championship (third under its Hall of Fame coach, Roy Williams), denying Gonzaga their first which would have been a historic victory – a national championship by a school from a non-power basketball conference. Not since Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV Runnin’ Rebels managed the feat in 1990 has that occurred – and it may never. Gonzaga was not only a #1 seed (mostly due to their gaudy 37-1 record) but, for all intents and purposes, as strong a club as was in the tourney.

The biggest guy on the floor, the one the Zags relied on all season, had no points on post ups, even though he had several opportunities. The other two guys they count on also had subpar outings. It wasn’t much prettier for Carolina. The game’s most outstanding player shot 7-19 and their sharp shooter took a schneider from three, missing all of his nine attempts, some of them badly.

There were 44 fouls called, 22 on each team. Although both teams played incredibly hard, possibly the pressure of all that was riding on the outcome of the game made the participants perform in a manner uncharacteristic to what everyone had come to expect after watching both throughout their sensational seasons. Naturally, in a contest with so much on the line – even with the play less than stellar – there was criticism of the officiating crew. ESPN’s Jay Williams claimed, “That was one of the worst officiated national championship games I’ve seen in a long time.” Yeah, in about a year. When the game is poorly played, blame the referees.

Besides the announcers and commentators, others chimed in via the internet. Notably, the (arguably) best basketball player in the world posted what has come to be the refrain heard whenever there are an excessive amount of whistles in a game. “Man I can’t watch this anymore man! I would like to see the kids decide who wins the game! I mean Bruh!! Smh,” said none other than LeBron James. His former BFF posted this remark. “Let these kids play. Put the whistles away,” said Dwyane Wade. Just the advice regarding referees we need – two NBAers bitching about the officials. Check those two the next time they drive to the bucket and the refs don’t call a foul. In fact, check any NBA player when he takes it to the hole and there’s no fouled called. Or when a call goes against him. Make the NBA game one of “call your own fouls” and let’s see how pleasant that scenario would be.

When all was said and done, the players were the ones who decided the game. Check out the foul calls. If someone was truly impartial (OK, that group seldom exists in a game), the foul calls were legit. Many were of the foolish variety, but fouls nonetheless. Sure, some might be argued but, had they not been blown, people would be complaining the officials were losing control of the game.

There actually was a play – late – that will be discussed for years. During a scrum under the basket, a tie-up was called. The referees missed that the Tarheel player had his hand out of bounds while the ball was touching him prior to the whistle being blown. However, let it be known that none of the three man broadcast crew mentioned it – even after showing two replays! Also, with the less than stellar play by nearly every player on both squads, can we not allow one blown call by the trio of officials? The other judgment calls? Either way the guys in stripes would catch hell. And this commentary is coming from someone who is no big fan of referees (check precious blogs).

Could it just be the feeling of disappointment everyone (minus the UNC supporters) has is:

“Why couldn’t the season’s final game been better played?”

 

 

A Year When “Co-” Is the Way to Go

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Tony Kornheiser, on the award-winning PTI show, went on record as stating that this year’s NBA rookie-of-the-year award should be vacated because no one is deserving, whether the reason be lack of production or lack of games played. Kornheiser also feels that, under no circumstances, should the NBA have co-MVPs. Yet, if ever there was a year that the difference between two guys was oh-so-razor thin, this is it.

Unless Russell Westbrook completely flames out down the stretch, he will average a triple-double for the season. Oscar Robertson did it. No one else has. Westbrook is currently at 31.8 points (best in the NBA), 10.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists (third in the league) with six games to go. He’s had 39 triple-doubles thus far. In order to beat The Big O’s record of 41, he’ll need … (I won’t insult you, you do the math). Recently, Russ posted one in which he had 13 rebounds and 11 assists – to go along with 57 points – for the most points in a triple-double in NBA history. By far, this is best season any Thunder player has ever had, and in all likelihood, the best any Thunder player will ever have. Maybe the best numbers any NBA player will put up from here on out.

After losing Kevin Durant to free agency, OKC has a 43-32 record, sixth best in the Western Conference. An impressive statistic, especially for those skeptics who feel Westbrook simply chases stats, is that the Thunder win nearly 80% of the games in which Westbrook has a triple-double but only a third of those when he falls short of that mark.

Another NBA baller, also playing in the Western Conference, is putting up ridiculous numbers. James Harden, a former teammate of Westbrook’s (think OKC’s brass doesn’t regret not locking up Harden – when they also had KD in the fold), is crushing it this season, posting per game averages of 29.2 points (second in the league), 8.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists (first). The Beard has had a couple triple-doubles this season with 50+ points, one a 53/16/17 performance and another, about a month later, in which he accumulated 51/13/13. So far this season, Harden has posted 20 triple-doubles.

What’s more impressive is that Harden has completely made over his game. Head coach Mike D’Antoni took over the reins in Houston and brought his mega-offense philosophy with him, telling Harden he’d be the club’s point guard, a la what he did with Steve Nash when the two were in Phoenix. The word is Harden questioned his coach but was willing. The Rockets climbed the standings – from last season’s eighth place finish, having split their 82 games – to this year’s 51-25 mark, third best in the entire NBA.

Neither guy might never have such sensational statistical years again. To Tony Kornheiser and all those fans who share his view, I say, put yourself in their shoes. If you had a season doing whatever it is you do – and your profession gave an award for the best in the field – wouldn’t you be crushed if, after the season-long effort like either Westbrook or Harden has had, you didn’t win that honor? And, if you did win, unless you have no heart at all, wouldn’t you feel an incredible amount of empathy for the guy who came in second?

After two such record-breaking seasons:

“Would it really be so awful to buck tradition and have co-MVPs this year?”