Monday night's matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets lost most of its luster with the absences of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons due to their respective injuries. But Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving were ready to go, and something interesting might happen whenever those two are on the floor.
On this night it was Westbrook who earned the accolades with a historic assist. Late in the first half, he moved past Hall of Famer Gary Payton and into 10th place on the NBA's all-time assists list with 8,967 dimes for his career. Westbrook is one of three active players in the top 10, along with Chris Paul (third) and teammate LeBron James (sixth).
As the clock ticked under one minute to play in the half, Westbrook caught the ball on the perimeter and used an extremely subtle fake to get Royce O'Neale off of his feet. With an open lane to the rim ahead of him, Westbrook charged toward the basket, drew the defense and dropped the ball off to Thomas Bryant for an emphatic slam. It was a play worthy of making history.
Russell Westbrook is now 10th all-time in career assists.— NBA (@NBA) January 31, 2023
Congrats, Russ! pic.twitter.com/pyOq5oDgPA
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Westbrook's Lakers tenure has not gone to plan, but he's been much more productive since accepting a bench role that allows him to run the second unit. Entering Monday, he was averaging 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists in 44 games as a reserve. He leads all bench players in assists and ranks 11th in the league overall.
As a result, he's now the betting favorite to win Sixth Man of the Year. Per Caesars Sportsbook, Westbrook is -125 to win the award -- a solid lead over Boston Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon at +165 and Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey at +500.