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.

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Nerlens Noel was essentially the beginning of The Process.

Acquired in a draft day trade with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013, Noel was the last player remaining of those who were on the team when Brett Brown took over as head coach of the Sixers. Drafted No. 6 overall out of Kentucky, Noel missed the entire 2013-14 season recovering from a torn ACL.

That gave Brown the opportunity to work closely with Noel, most notably on his shot.

"Personally, I spent a lot of time with him," Brown said pregame Friday. "To have a whole year where you could help grow his shot. And talk about a total rebuild."

Noel on Thursday was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a top-18 protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. The return doesn't seem great, but there are larger factors at play.

Noel is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer. With the emergence of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on the roster, the center position was (and still is, frankly) crowded. The chances of the Sixers' retaining Noel weren't great. Especially if a team had signed him to an exorbitant offer sheet.

Brown was naturally close to Noel, but understands the business side of the decision.

"I'm happy for him in my heart of hearts," Brown said. "[The Mavericks] have brought him in to grow him to try to be a starting center. That does equal a commensurate paycheck. He will be rewarded if that's the way it plays out.

"That wasn't gonna happen here. It wasn't gonna happen here. And so when you really study salary caps, really study design of teams and really study how to grow a program so you're not caught positionally, it was gonna be hard to allocate that amount of money to a five spot."

Brown got some more tough news when he learned No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons won't play this season. A scan taken Thursday revealed that Simmons' Jones fracture, suffered in early October on the last day of training camp, has not fully healed (see story).

Brown, being the consummate optimist, brought up his experience with Noel in is his rookie season of how a player can still develop despite not getting on the court.

"I'm disappointed for lots of reasons that he isn't going to be able to play," Brown said. "I played text tag with him as he was going to the scan. I felt like when your wife is having a baby, pacing around, wondering, 'What's gonna happen? What's the result of the scan? What's it gonna be? What's it gonna be?' I don't mean to get too dramatic, but there's a level of anxiety that you wonder, 'What is the result gonna say?' And when it came back with the result, it caught me off guard. It really wasn't something personally I was expecting."

Sixers president of basketball operation Bryan Colangelo addressed the media Friday to disclose the news on Simmons. He also explained his thinking behind the Noel trade, which mostly hinged on Noel's impending restricted free-agent status (see story).

Brown was sad to see one of his original developmental projects go, but understood the business side of the decision.                     

"I thought he did a really good job," Brown said of Colangelo's press conference. "That is the truth. So it's connected with emotion and reality that we say goodbye to Nerlens."

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor is still a Sixer.

He's not a New Orleans Pelican or a Portland Trail Blazer or a Dallas Maverick. He's not going back home to Chicago or to Indiana to play with Paul George. He's in Philly for at least the next 26 games and he's ready to get to work.

"I was happy that the trade deadline was over with and I knew where I'd be finishing the rest of the season," Okafor said. "After the past couple weeks I couldn't wait until 3 o'clock yesterday would pass, which means I wouldn't have to worry about where I would be and have to deal with all the trade rumors.

"It's a sigh of relief. I'm glad it's over with. I'm still a Sixer so I'm excited about playing tonight."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo on Friday spoke at length about the team's future. He's said he's planning to build around the team's "transformational players" in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

He also addressed the deal that sent Nerlens Noel to Dallas for a protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. With all of the rumors swirling around Okafor, there wasn't much chatter around Noel.

The biggest reason for Noel's departure is his contract. Noel is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. He's a desirable player in today's NBA as a big that can run the floor and offer elite rim protection. Okafor can't become a restricted free agent until 2019.

Colangelo said there was a market for Okafor, but he just couldn't find the right deal.

"The market dictates what’s there and interestingly given our situation with the multiple talented bigs I think it's safe to say people view us as a place to come if they are looking for a big," Colangelo said. "Several bigs were out there and available on the market. A trade went down early. (Jusuf) Nurkic going to Portland. There was some conversation with Jahlil early, some advanced discussions to the point we pulled him out of a game situation just because there was so much at stake given the terms of a proposed transaction."

It seems like Okafor has been on the trade block since the day he was drafted third overall in 2015. With Embiid's emerging as a star and Noel's being the team's longest-tenured big, it had been difficult to see Okafor's long-term fit with the Sixers.

To Okafor's credit, he's taken it all in stride. As Colangelo alluded to, he had "advanced" talks on a deal that would send Okafor to Portland. The talks got serious enough to where Okafor was held out of a win over the Heat and began the handshaking ritual of a player on the move. He was also held out of the next game in Charlotte.

Through all of it, Okafor wasn't bitter. He just quietly kept working.

"I never looked at me being shopped as a negative thing," Okafor said. "It's just part of the business... I am here so there are no hard feelings or anything like that. No, not at all.

"I never felt disconnected from the team. When I wasn't traveling with the team I was still here in the facility with [Embiid and Simmons]. I was never just at home alone or anything like that. I was still with the team. Some of the coaches would stay back so I always felt connected with the Sixers."

Okafor will get his first action of the second half of the season tonight against the Wizards. He's been dealing with knee soreness, a result of a surgery to repair a torn meniscus last March. He said Friday afternoon that he's feeling healthy after the All-Star Break and the Rising Stars Challenge.

After all the speculation and rumors, Okafor just wants to play basketball.

"I think it's something a lot of players in the NBA have to deal with," he said. "We're all basketball players. We want to play well for ourselves and for our team.

"Whatever happens in a few months, we'll see what happens then. Right now I'm just worried about playing these last 26 games and playing well for the city and playing well for the team. "