SI cover: The NBA's triple-double machine, Russell Westbrook
There are many reasons for his controlled madness on the hardwood. One is because he knows no other gear than to push the game's tempo.
"This is one of the best jobs in the world and you never know how long you'll be able to do it-how long you'll be able to run like this and jump like this," Westbrook, who is on the national cover of this week's Sports lllustrated, tells Lee Jenkins. "So I go for it. I go for it every time. It may look angry, but it's the only way I know."
Westbrook is averaging a league-leading 27.6 points to go along with 8.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists this season for Oklahoma City. His nine triple doubles are by far the most in the NBA. He broke his cheekbone during a Feb. 27 loss to Portland and still finished with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
He has worn a protective plastic mask protect the injury ever since.
It's not hard to see why Westbrook is talked about as one of the leading candidates for the Most Valuable Player award.
"We're talking about a guy with the athleticism of LeBron and the drive of Kobe," one opposing coach says of Westbrook. "That's an intimidating enough combination, and then you put that mask on him, he's something out of a movie."
"His give-a-f--- level is very, very high," adds Thunder forward Nick Collison.
That level has to be high these days for the Thunder, who are hanging on to the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with fewer than 10 regular-season games remaining.
Most in NBA circles are pointing to the fact that the Thunder's run as of one the better teams in the West may be coming to an end. Durant is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016 and Westbrook's five-year, $78.6 million contract will expire the following season.
For now, the 26-year-old Westbrook is shouldering the load, attempting to carry the Thunder to another playoff berth.
For more on Westbrook, check out this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).
Also in this issue, a preview of the Final Four, a profile of former Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson and a book excerpt from Arnold Palmer.
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2015 Sports Illustrated Covers