Following the Thunder's Christmas blowout in New York, Kevin Durant was asked a question he and his teammates face regularly at road venues.
“Does it look like Russell Westbrook is finally back to 100 percent?”
“ … Triple-double in three quarters,” Durant responded after a brief pause. “That speaks for itself.”
For a time, the topic was relevant and the answer was unknown. But now, after Westbrook's latest masterful performance in an extended string of them, another question seems a bit more pressing.
Is this Westbrook — a seemingly fully healed Westbrook — the best version of the three-time All-Star we've ever seen?
Because in a dominant December, you could make a strong case for it.
“As good as I've ever seen him,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said after Westbrook dropped an easy 26 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds in 32 minutes on his East-leading Pacers.
But that was back on Dec. 8. And it was only the start of a 10-game stretch that's seen Westbrook put up monster stat-lines that have been every bit as impactful as the numbers suggest.
His averages: 21.9 points, 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebounds. His team's record: 9-1.
“It all starts with our point guard,” Durant recently said of the Thunder's hot streak.
Westbrook had 31 points on 13-of-22 shooting in an easy road win over the Spurs. He had double-digit assists in five of the 10 games. He had the NBA's eighth ever triple-double on Christmas Day, dissecting the Knicks' helpless defense with his uncontainable speed and improving court vision.
But none of it has been near as impressive, or telling, as his recent rebounding tear.
Want an indication that his knee is fine and athleticism is back and maybe better than ever? Look at the numbers.
In the last 10 games, he leads the Thunder in rebounds, grabbing them at a higher clip than Serge Ibaka and Durant, two plus-level interior forces who are seven inches taller and rebounding at career rates this season.
“He's just a freak athlete,” Durant said. “He's 6-3, big, strong. He's a great rebounder for his position.”
Actually, he's the best. And it's not close. Westbrook has led point guards in rebounding each of the past three years. And at a career-high 6.0 this year, he's on pace to smash that category again. Tyreke Evans is the next closest at 4.8.
“He gets it and we go,” Lamb said of the Thunder's expedited fastbreak. “No need for the outlet pass.”
And when put up against some of the league's best in that category, he still holds his own.
According to the NBA's innovative SportVu database, Westbrook grabs 70.3 percent of rebounds he has a chance of capturing. That's sixth highest in the league among players with at least six per game. Those ahead of him include: Durant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan. All are 6-foot-8 or taller.
Pretty good company for a point guard.
Russell Westbrook: Officially back, maybe better than ever.