Philadelphia 76ers

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.

Give and Go: What is the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season?

Give and Go: What is the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season?

With training camp starting next week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato and producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we discuss the biggest challenge for head coach Brett Brown this season.

Camerato
For years Brett Brown has faced the challenge of piecing together a shorthanded roster to put some kind of, any kind of, rotation on the floor. This season he will have healthier players to work with, and that in itself will pose a different set of challenges.

Brown has a young roster that is eager to play. Former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons has been waiting nearly 12 months to make his NBA debut since suffering a Jones fracture on the last day of training camp. Markelle Fultz, this year’s top pick, has not played since mid-February as a student-athlete at Washington. Joel Embiid last suited up on Jan. 27 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

These hungry players, and it is not limited to only the three mentioned above, will want to be in the game as much as possible. Brown will be tasked with managing eagerness and anxiousness to play all while following medical guidelines and restrictions. Lineups could change from a night to night based on player availability (back-to-backs, rest, etc.). Brown will have to establish consistency and flexibility at the same time, also keeping his players on board even if they can’t be on the court as much as they would like to be.

Haughton
Brett Brown will face a whole new world as head coach of the Sixers in 2017-18. He’ll have to find a way to make a rookie backcourt work, mix contributing veterans into the fold and, for the first time in his tenure, face some semblance of pressure to win.

But Brown’s biggest obstacle next season has nothing to do with X’s and O’s or wins and losses. The coach must maintain the spirit of the process.

At first glance, you may think that has something to do with continuing to lose games for the highest possible draft pick. No, not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

In Brown’s four years at the helm, the Sixers have lost a combined 253 games. Some close, some by a wide margin and far too many of the nightmarish variety.

But no matter the previous game’s score, Brown always had his players on the court for the next matchup ready to give their max effort. His ability to stay positive amid the mounting losses and still push his guys to play all out every single night is somewhat remarkable (see story). It’s what the players love about him the most.

The egos that go along with high-level talent and the pressure of playoff aspirations mean Brown is sure to encounter some new challenges. However, it may just be that process mentality that gets the Sixers fully over the process.

Hudrick
For the last four years, Brown has barely had enough healthy players to form an entire team. And even when he had healthy players, most of them were borderline D-Leaguers (now G-Leaguers, of course).

The blessing and the curse for Brown this season is having real, NBA talent up and down his roster.

Nerlens Noel is gone so the logjam at center is over, right? Nope. Embiid is your starting center and franchise cornerstone. Richaun Holmes proved last year that he is a capable backup at the pro level. Jahlil Okafor is still here and needs to prove he's healthy if the Sixers hope to move him. Oh yeah, the team also went out and signed veteran Amir Johnson away from the Celtics. The uncertainty behind Embiid's status means there will be minutes available, but how many? Bottom line: This team still has four NBA-caliber centers.

The newest challenge for Brown is an overabundance of guards/wings. With Fultz, JJ Redick and a now healthy Jerryd Bayless added to the mix, where does that leave T.J. McConnell, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nik Stauskas, Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz?

Sure, it's a nice problem to have, but figuring out the rotation on an improving roster will be the biggest challenge for Brett Brown this season.

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Simmons' defensive assignment; Saric's role

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Simmons' defensive assignment; Saric's role

Sixers coach Brett Brown reiterated Wednesday that he plans to use Ben Simmons as his point guard this season, while adding that Markelle Fultz will not be excluded from “decision-making and point guard-type of responsibilities” on occasion.

Brown also didn’t rule out using the 6-10 Simmons as a small-ball center.

Simmons and Fultz have been the top picks in each of the last two drafts, but Simmons missed last season while his broken right foot healed.

Simmons, who played a single season at LSU, is “an elite passer,” in Brown’s estimation, as well as a guy who has “jaw-dropping” speed.

Brown has also found that the 6-4 Fultz, selected after the Sixers engineered a trade with Boston for the most recent No. 1 choice, is very coachable. And his skill set is as advertised.

There will be times, as a result, when each runs the point.

“Once the ball is missed and you have sort of jailbreak, Markelle’s going to be in (the) open court with the ball,” Brown said. “He will be at that point one of the primary ballcarriers. When it’s a static situation and you’ve got to run a play at the start of the year, Ben Simmons will have the ball. … At the start of the game and it’s a dead ball, we’re going to give Ben the ball.”

Defensively, Brown envisions Fultz playing opposing point guards and Simmons guarding power forwards. The matchups with the other projected starters are also conventional. Joel Embiid will play centers, Robert Covington will guard the other team’s best wing and JJ Redick will check the other wing.

Brown also said Simmons “has a chance to be an elite defender,” though his reputation in college was otherwise. Fultz also played a lot of zone in his lone year at Washington.

The Simmons-at-center discussion was an interesting one. Brown said it is “possible” he will use Simmons – or possibly 6-10 Dario Saric – in that capacity at times, noting that the Warriors closed games with no one bigger than 6-7 Draymond Green (and more recently, 6-10 Kevin Durant) on the court.

“When you get down to the last six minutes, inevitably it ends up a smaller game,” Brown said.

As for Simmons’ health, president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said that hasn’t been a concern for a while.

“He’s playing 5-on-5,” Colangelo said, “and dominating the gym.”

Fluid rotation
Much is still to be determined about the rotation, given the presence of veterans like Amir Johnson, Jerryd Bayless, Richaun Holmes, Nik Stauskas and (possibly) a slimmed-down Jahlil Okafor.

And what of Saric? He averaged 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds as a rookie last season, while appearing in all but one game. There is speculation that he might wind up the sixth man, but Brown is not yet certain about that.

“His gift of basketball intellect is high, and so when you say where does he fit in, I’m saying anywhere we want,” he said. “Where does he fit in to start games, end games, I don’t know. I just know that in my opinion, that’s probably the Rookie of the Year (last season), and his skill package and his toughness and his intellect will be fit in where it’s needed most -- in a timely fashion, we believe.”

Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon was chosen Rookie of the Year, while Saric and Embiid made the All-Rookie team. Now Saric is one of many players for whom Brown must find time.

“The gym’s going to tell us a lot,” he said.

And, he added, “I feel the first third of the season is going to be a lot of learning for all of us.”

Playoffs?
Playoff talk has been rampant for a while, and when asked by Ian Thomsen of NBA.com about that, Colangelo said, “Forecasting that would definitely, I believe, be unrealistic. But hoping for that? It’s on everybody’s mind.”

Colangelo revisited that on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic to want to be in the playoffs, or have a goal to be in the playoffs,” he said. “That is our goal, but (there are) things you have to look at with respect to the situation we find ourselves in.”

He pointed out the difficulty of making the postseason with two rookie guards. According to the Sixers’ research, it hasn’t happened since Houston did so in 1998-99, with a backcourt of Cuttino Mobley and Michael Dickerson.

Then there is the matter of incorporating the other new pieces, like Redick and Johnson.

“I think it’s premature to throw anything out with respect to a number (of victories) or any goal,” Colangelo said, “but I would say our objective is to make the playoffs.”

Brown, 75-253 in his first four years on the job (including last year’s 28-54), knows the team is “in a different phase,” as he put it, and understands how difficult it can be to take the next step. At the same time, he too is caught up in the excitement of the playoff talk, which has in part emanated from the players.

“I really don’t say anything to them about tempering expectations,” he said. “I like them saying stuff. Then you’ve got to own it. … Words are one thing, actions are another.”

But certainly he likes how hard they have worked in the offseason, and sees the potential.

“Years ago,” he said, “I heard a phrase: ‘If they show you who they are, believe them.’ That’s over a period of time. … On first glance, when I check some of our guys, I think they have a real chance for greatness. We aspire to win a championship in the city. Then you want another one, and then another one.”