Russell Westbrook Promises Rebounding Surge: 'I Was BS-ing'

Michael Shapiro

Russell Westbrook is among the most prolific rebounding guards in NBA history, standing as one of two 6'4"-and-under players to ever snag 6,000 rebounds. The Rockets point guard registered over 10 rebounds per game in each of his final three seasons in Oklahoma City, but his totals have dipped in his first year with the Rockets. 8.1 rebounds per game is nothing to scoff at entering Friday's game in Minnesota. But Westbrook knows his rebounding totals can increase through the rest of 2019-20. 

"I've been BS-ing, leaving it up to Clint when that's a huge part of my game," Westbrook told the media after Houston's win over the Nuggets on Wednesday. "I'm going to stay locked in on that. ...I feel like I'm the best at that at my position."

Westbrook appears to have made a concerted effort to attack the glass in recent games. He's tallied double-digit rebounds in three of Houston's last four contests, including a 16-rebound effort against Denver. A conversation with Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni is behind the recent surge. 

"We had a conversation not too long ago and we were 30th in rebounding and [Westbrook] said 'I'll just go get them," D'Antoni said on Wednesday. "I think he's just determined to go get them."

It's not simply raw talent that contributed to Westbrook's gaudy rebounding totals in Oklahoma City. His numbers were a touch inflated, often the byproduct of snatching rebounds from Thunder center Steven Adams. But the stolen rebounds weren't an act of selfishness. They were largely a byproduct of scheme, one the Rockets employed on Wednesday.

Westbrook crashing the glass saves the Rockets one step in their fast break. Instead of waiting for Clint Capela or another big to snatch the rebound, turn, and find Westbrook, Houston can begin its sprint down the floor a second sooner. Westbrook is in full gear when he grabs a rebound–especially when the lane is cleared out–ready to burst down the court. The result is often a layup attempt or open three, avoiding half-court sets when James Harden is out of the game. Westbrook in transition remains lethal. Letting him grab the rebound kickstarts Houston's fast break.

Westbrook has found his groove of late, averaging 29.8 points per game on 51.9% from the field. His transition prowess has been a catalyst in the surge, fueled by increased attention to snagging defensive rebounds. For the Rockets' bigs, the plan is evident: clear the lane, and let Westbrook run. 

Westbrook will have his next chance to post double-digit rebounds on Friday as the Rockets face the Timberwolves in Minnesota. Tip-off from the Target Center is slated for 7 p.m. CT.