Wroten among greats with triple-double ... sort of

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Wroten among greats with triple-double ... sort of

It wasn’t exactly a moment that could have decided the outcome of the game. But when Spencer Hawes pulled away a rebound that seemed headed for Tony Wroten’s hands with 2:37 remaining in overtime, one had to wonder if that was the guard’s last chance.

It wasn’t.

Nearly 90 seconds later, Wroten, a 6-foot-6 combo guard, grabbed his 10th rebound of the game with little difficulty. It was that nonchalant rebound that made Wroten’s stat line pulsate:

18 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds.

The triple-double was first by a Sixer since Jrue Holiday got one in Phoenix on Jan. 2, 2013 and the fifth in the NBA this season. But more notable, Wroten got his first career triple-double in his first NBA start.

“I never got a triple-double in my life,” Wroten said. “So this is crazy. Never.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wroten is the first player in NBA history to get a triple-double in his first career start since the company became the league’s official stats keeper in 1970-71. Earlier this season, rookie Michael Carter-Williams came one steal away from notching a triple-double in his first NBA start/game. Wroten actually got his in his 44th regular-season game and 50th official NBA game, counting the postseason.

To say Wroten is the first to get a triple-double in his first start is a bit dubious. According to newspaper articles from the era, Oscar Robertson got a triple-double in his first NBA game. Plus, NBA statistics are incomplete. Some teams don’t have complete data bases of box scores and the league only had official box scores going back to the mid-1980s. Many of the statistics and box scores from NBA games in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s were cobbled together from old newspaper archives.

Secondly, many of the statistics we understand and take for granted now were not official stats -- and therefore, not counted -- a decade or so ago. For instance, steals and blocks were not stats until 1973. That’s why players like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Robertson are absent from all-time lists.

According to the official NBA statistics, Chamberlain never blocked a shot or had a steal. Unofficially, Chamberlain is known for getting the first quadruple-double, but the league doesn’t recognize him for it. Chamberlain also got the only double triple-double in league history when he had 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists against Detroit at the Spectrum in 1968.

As for the triple-double, it wasn’t until long after he retired that people realized that Robertson averaged a triple-double in his first five combined seasons as well as during the 1961-62 campaign where he averaged 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game, making him the only player ever to pull off the feat. He almost did it during his rookie season, too, going for 30.5 points, 10.1 boards and 9.7 assists per game in 1960-61 and again in 1962-63 when The Big O came seven rebounds away from the triple-double average.

The player to come the closest since Robertson was Magic Johnson, who fell short by 29 rebounds and 37 assists from doing it in 1981-82 and 107 rebounds away from pulling it off in 1982-83.

Regardless, it doesn’t diminish Wroten’s feat. After all, a triple-double is a true indicator of the all-around player. Typically, players don’t get them by accident. In other words, all of a sudden a player isn’t going to “get hot” and mess around and get a triple-double.

If it could be labeled as such, the triple-double is the most organic of all statistical phenomenon, yet they never sneak up on anyone. If someone is an assist or a rebound or two away from a triple-double, everyone in the gym knows it and they keep track. A triple-double is like a hand grenade in that when it is about to blow, it makes some noise. That's the way it seemed when Larry Bird and Johnson used to get them or the way LeBron James and Rajon Rondo get them now.

Plus, triple-doubles are often produced by certain types of players. A small guy will have difficulty getting 10 rebounds or blocks and a bigger player won’t get the assists as frequently. It’s those hybrid players like Wroten and Carter-Williams, another big guard at 6-6, who handle the ball and have the size to get rebounds.
   
Still, if a guy is going to get a triple-double, it’s going to have to be organic. As versatile big man Spencer Hawes pointed out, a player has to keep his head in the game. Hawes didn’t do that when he was a few assists short of a triple-double while playing for Sacramento.  

“I remember being a lot more caught up in it and I had the assists count in my head," Hawes said. "I got the rebounds and the points early, and then I started on the assist count and I got too caught up in it. A guy missed a layup and a guy missed a three-pointer, and I was thinking, ‘No!’”

Hawes has gotten close, like when he was an assist away from a triple-double in Portland for the 2011-12 season opener. Interestingly, Hawes remembered a game in high school when he nearly got a quadruple-double until his coach benched him.

“I started taunting the crowd and the coach pulled me out,” Hawes said.

Wait ... what?

“I air balled a free throw and the crowd started chanting, 'Air ball’ at me,” he said. “I made the next one and I turned and started chanting, ‘Scoreboard’ and then he yanked me. I think I was two blocks and three assists away from a quadruple-double.”

After pulling off the feat on Wednesday, Wroten said he never had a triple-double at any level. Not even in high school, summer leagues or biddy ball.

“It’s a blessing. I’m just at a loss for words,” Wroten said.

Best of NBA: James Harden's 12th triple-double paces Rockets' rout of Nets

Best of NBA: James Harden's 12th triple-double paces Rockets' rout of Nets

NEW YORK -- James Harden had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in his 12th triple-double of the season and the Houston Rockets easily ended their first losing streak of the season by beating the Brooklyn Nets 137-112 on Sunday night.

Held to 105 points in losses to Minnesota and Memphis, the Rockets bounced back with 104 after three quarters and handed the Nets their 10th straight loss.

Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 24 points and Trevor Ariza added 23. Houston made 21 3-pointers and had five players with at least 16 points.

Houston shot just 40.8 percent during its two losses, well below its 46.8 season average, while being held nearly 10 points below its season scoring average. But the Rockets had no trouble bouncing back against the Nets, who allow an NBA-worst 114.3 per game (see full recap).

DeRozan leads Raptors past Knicks
TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, Norman Powell added 21 and the Toronto Raptors used a dominant third quarter to beat the New York Knicks 116-101 on Sunday.

DeRozan also had five rebounds and five assists before coming out late in the third quarter.

The Raptors improved to 27-13, taking the lead for good late in the first quarter. They led by 38 points in the third in winning their third straight game overall and fifth in a row against the Knicks.

DeMarre Carroll added 20 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 18 points, Justin Holiday had 17, and Derrick Rose added 16. The Knicks are 2-10 in their last 12 to drop to 18-23 (see full recap).

Hawks stay hot by beating Bucks    
ATLANTA -- Kent Bazemore scored 24 points, Mike Dunleavy added 20 and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 111-98 on Sunday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points and was a tough matchup in the paint for Milwaukee, which dropped 2 1/2 games behind the fourth-place Hawks in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta has won eight of nine. The Bucks have dropped three of five.

Dunleavy, in his second game since arriving in a trade last week with Cleveland, had his first 20-point performance since a first-round playoff game for Chicago on April 30, 2015.

Antetokounmpo has scored at least 30 points in eight games in a breakout season (see full recap)

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz keep on scoring

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz keep on scoring

The Sixers' run of five wins in six games means they have only the fourth-worst record in the league, but that still means Philly is a top contender for a top pick. Add that to the Lakers' pick that will likely be heading to Philly this summer and the Sixers have a chance to be making two high lottery picks this June.

So let's take a look at how some of the players in the conversation for this June's draft are playing in college.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
Week by week, it seems like the obvious move to lead off with Ball. The freshman point guard is averaging 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.8 steals and even 0.9 blocks a game. He's shooting lights out (53 percent from the field and 43 percent from three) and has shown no signs of letting up.

This week was an example of the different forms his game can take. In a 104-89 win at Colorado on Thursday, Ball shot the ball just six times, but made three of those attempts (two from beyond the arc) and dished out eight assists. His 11 points were the fewest he had scored in nearly a month.

But then he had to take on the offensive burden against a pesky Utah squad. He still dished out eight assists, but he took 12 shots and efficiently made seven of them. He was 3 for 7 from three and also had six rebounds. Perhaps most impressive was his five steals, a career-high for the well-rounded guard. And better yet, his first 40-minute performance was key to an 83-82 win on the road.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
With each passing game, it looks more and more likely that Washington will not make the NCAA Tournament. Like with Ben Simmons last season, that means the player most tout as the No. 1 player, Fultz, will not get to participate in March Madness, a true shame. It'd be different if Fultz was underachieving like the Huskies as a whole, but that's simply not the case.

Take Saturday for instance. Washington lost to a middling Pac 12 squad (Stanford) and fell to 1-4 in conference. The team only scored 69 points and shot 38.5 percent from the field, 7 for 26 from three. Yet Fultz's stat line looks as if it had to come from the winning squad's top player. In 37 minutes, he scored 34 points, nearly half his team's total, on 12 for 23 shooting, four threes, 6 for 7 free throw shooting.

It's not like his non-shooting stats were any worse. He had seven boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks. His jumper is smooth (go to the 1:10 mark of the game highlights to see him hit from Curry range) and he can battle inside for boards. It's disappointing that he likely won't play meaningful postseason games this year, but he's a delight to watch regardless of the stakes.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
This is it from the Pac 12, I swear! But the West Coast has been arguably the best coast this year in terms of some of the best prospects (I didn't even put Ivan Rabb on here, but he's shown up with some big games as well). Markkanen's last two games made it imperative that the Finnish forward was included on this list.

Markkanen appears to be the ideal stretch four. Just a freshman, he has scored 50 points in 52 minutes over his last two games, two wins for the Wildcats, including 18 for 30 shooting combined in wins against Colorado last Saturday and Arizona State on Thursday. Even better, he's more than found his mark from three, making 8 of 11 from deep in those games and has gobbled up 14 rebounds as well. His 30 points against Arizona State were a career-high and another reason why he's a top-10 prospect.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Not every prospect has had a great week. Tatum played admirably in a loss to No. 9 Florida State on Tuesday, scoring 21 points on 17 shots and made 3 of 6 from three. But the freshman wing was a large part of Duke's second straight loss in a road clash with Louisville on Saturday.

Dealing with foul trouble, he played just 31 minutes. He is counted on as a top scoring option for the Blue Devils, right there with the much-beleaguered Grayson Allen and sophomore Luke Kennard. However, he wasn't a threat offensively Saturday, going 3 for 11 and missing his only three. He redeemed himself somewhat with a 5 for 6 day at the free throw line, but it wasn't enough to bring Duke back in a 78-69 loss.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
After Baylor lost to begin the week, Kansas seems all but assured to be the new No. 1 when the polls come out Monday. The freshman Jackson doesn't necessarily lead the Jayhawks — he has senior point guard Frank Mason III to rely on for that — but he is still a threat on both ends. His shooting is still a concern as he is just 25 percent from the three-point line and 57 percent from the free throw line, but he does everything else to make scouts excited about the freshman wing.

Facing Oklahoma State on Saturday, Jackson was one of three Jayhawks to score at least 20 (he finished with exactly that) and was at the free throw line more often than OSU as a team, shooting 17 free throws to the Cowboys' 14 attempts. A 6-foot-8 forward that plays every bit like a guard can often do that. He made just 10 of those freebies and was 5 for 13 from the field, but he had 11 rebounds and four steals, not to mention two blocks, making him a double threat, offensively and defensively. 

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-four points on 8 for 14 shooting, 4 for 8 from three, one rebound, six assists, and one block in a 92-72 win over Auburn.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Seventeen points on 6 for 11 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 12 rebounds, two assists, three steals and four fouls in a 96-83 loss to No. 11 North Carolina.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Eleven points on 4 for 8 shooting, 0 for 2 from three, three rebounds, two assists, seven steals (!), and one block in a 76-57 win over Rutgers.

Jaron Blossomgame, forward, Clemson (6-7/214)
Twenty-two points on 10 for 14 shooting, six rebounds, two assists, one block and two turnovers in a 77-73 loss to No. 19 Virginia.