If you were scoring the play above, you would give a missed three-point attempt to Oklahoma City's DJ Augustin and a rebound to Minnesota's Justin Hamilton, right? If so, you could never get a job as Oklahoma City's official scorekeeper. Here is how they scored the play:
Those are pretty tenuous definitions of "offensive rebound" and "tip shot," don't you think? So what gives? Via ESPN's Royce Young:
With 2:13 left, Russell Westbrook unlatched his mask and walked to the Thunder bench, sitting on 29 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists. A simple rebound away from the required round number to give him his eighth triple-double of the season, and his sixth in his last eight games.
The Thunder were enjoying an impressive blowout over the young Minnesota Timberwolves, and Westbrook was going to be left to watch the final couple of minutes a single rebound short. That's when he took matters into his own hands. He looked over at the Thunder's official scorekeepers, holding his arm up.
"Tip?" he said, nodding his head. "Tip?"
A quick conference at the scorer's table and right around the time the buzzer sounded on the Thunder's 113-99 win, Westbrook suddenly had his triple-double: 29 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. His eighth of the season, sixth in the last eight games, and the first player since Jason Kidd in 2007-08 to have eight or more in a season (Kidd had 13).
Sketchy scorekeeping is nothing new, of course. Assists are the easiest stat for official scorekeepers to artificially pad, but blocks, steals, turnovers, rebounds, and even field goal attempts can be fudged. As long as they don't screw up the score of the game, where's the harm?
Here is what a former Vancouver Grizzlies scorekeeper told us when we interviewed him six years ago:
"I wanted the numbers to be meaningful and accurate, and I knew they weren't," Alex says, a lesson he soon came to know firsthand. "I was good at making them inaccurate."
As Alex remembers it now, Olajuwon had a double-double with nine blocks at some point during the fourth quarter. "Someone in management came to me and said, basically, Thou shalt give Hakeem Olajuwon a triple-double. Come hell or high water, he's getting a triple-double.I'm like, uh, OK." The Grizzlies had small monitors on which they kept a running box score. Anyone could see if someone was closing in on a milestone. "If a guy is in vicinity of a record, people are tracking those things. I know those things," Alex says. "If a guy has an eight-game streak of getting 10 rebounds, I'll know that. Am I gonna help that? Probably." The Rockets game, though, "was the one time someone said, 'You'll do this.' And I did."
Russell Westbrook was awesome last night, whether he claimed nine rebounds (or eight) or ten. But it's a good reminder that when you have dumb, reductive arguments using stats—"Steve Nash was CLEARLY a better point guard than Mark Jackson because he had one more career assist"—it's all fake anyways.