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.

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”