Damn you, Russell Westbrook ... I hate what you've done to the NBA.

Don't get me wrong - as a desperate Fantasy Hoops tragic, I'm happy to ride your triple-double season to victory in the Tall Blacks Outsiders league, even if my finals opponent had Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry cruelly injured throughout the playoffs.

But I'm far happier to prevail against you in the Aotearoa Fantasy Rejects final, taking out scoring, rebounding and assists categories, despite your ridiculous production in each.

And maybe that's the point of this rant - despite Westbrook's statistical prowess this season, I just can't bring myself to back OKC's scowling point guard as Most Valuable Player.


Because, to me, the MVP should raise his team into contention, at least, for the NBA title and it's hard to see the Thunder, locked into sixth in the Western Conference, coming close to that.

Should the MVP really accept the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (named after the NBA's first commissioner/president) entirely on individual exploits?

As it stands, OKC are projected for elimination in the opening round of playoffs at the hands of the Houston Rockets ... we'll come back to that later.

If Westbrook were to take out the MVP award and then book the early tee time (I really can't picture Russ as a golfer), it would mark the first time in a decade that the league's "best player" was ousted that early in the post-season.

Even then (2007), Dirk Nowitzki had guided his Dallas Mavericks to that year's best regular-season record (67 wins/15 losses) and their demise at the hands of the pre-Steph Curry Golden State Warriors was a massive upset.

In fact, only three times this millennium has the MVP not contested a conference finals series. LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers (61-19) also had the season's best record, but were ousted by the Boston Celtics in the 2010 second round, a collapse that prompted him to "take his talents to South Beach" later that year.

And way back in 2002, Tim Duncan's San Antonio Spurs (58-24) finished second in the west, but were toppled by Kobe, Shaq and the LA Lakers, two-time defending champions.
Here's another sobering stat - since 1983, every MVP winner has come from a team that won at least 50 games in the regular season.

Oklahoma City are 46-34, with two games remaining.

On this basis, there should probably be only two real contenders for the honour - James (again, still) and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard, with Boston's Isaiah Thomas a rough outsider.

Although the Golden State Warriors will finish with the competition's best record, Kevin Durant's long injury lay-off probably discounted him from the MVP race, but his achievements were also enough to crowd Curry out of his third individual crown.

The other name shouted as an MVP candidate is Houston's (and former Westbrook team-mate) James Harden (I told you we would be back here), who quietly brought up his 21st triple double of the season in a win over Sacramento Kings yesterday.

"The Beard" has made everyone forget that his matador defence was a laughing stock just 12 months ago and his Rockets loom as spoilers in the Western Conference, but remain just short of where they need to be for Harden's regular season aspirations to come to fruition.

The Thunder - and perhaps Westbrook himself - only have themselves to blame for their predicament. They should be far better than they are.

When they pushed LBJ's Miami Heat in the 2012 finals, OKC were a team on the rise, with enough talent to become perennial contenders, and easily take a title or two. Westbrook, Durant, Harden formed an exciting nucleus, with Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka a pretty handy support cast.

Now, only Westbrook remains, and whether he is simply the only rat not to jump ship or the one that drove the others overboard, only insiders will know for sure. The only other player left from that finals roster is little-used veteran forward Nick Collison.

Let's park the MVP question and get to the nub of my beef with Westbrook, who has completely blown away the mystique surrounding the once-hallowed triple double.

Previously, this statistical curiosity was like taking a five-wicket bag in cricket, or scoring a hat-trick of tries or goals in football codes, only cooler. It was rare enough to be respected and celebrated.

Now, it's almost an every-second-day occurrence.

Twenty-two different players have compiled at least one this season. There have been 111 in 1202 games, with 28 fixtures remaining in the regular season.

With Westbrook completely devaluing the triple double, the feats of those other 21 players have gone largely unnoticed.

Moreover, the triple double has always embodied unselfishness, since assists are usually the hardest "double" to achieve.

As a point guard, Westbrook should rack up double-figure assists every night, but somehow, by climbing over his own forwards (including Kiwi Steven Adams) to claim rebounds, he has made the milestone about greed.

This reminds me of the 2003 game between Cleveland and Utah, where Cavaliers guard Ricky Davis needed a rebound for his triple-dub, and deliberately took and missed a shot at his own basket in pursuit of that board.

He was immediately clobbered by his marker and hard-arse Jazz coach Jerry Sloane, who would surely have knocked him into the stands back in the day, was still smoking from the ears, as he left the court.

Here's my wish for 2017-18: OKC make a trade or sign a decent free agent that takes them back into championship contention, Westbrook falls short of the triple-double average, but earns his MVP through true selflessness.

Until then, give the award to Leonard, who is a lock-down defender and much improved as a scorer (25.8 points), and has simply taken up the baton, after Duncan's retirement from a Spurs outfit that embodies what is great about basketball.