For a rookie, these are huge numbers: 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists.
Oscar Robertson did it at the start of his Hall of Fame career. Nobody else did it until Magic Johnson came along.
Now Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons has reached that threshold, passing it against the Knicks Thursday as he racked up his eighth triple-double of the season — 13 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists — moving him past a tie with Magic for second on the list of rookie triple-doubles (Robertson had 26). Here is what Simmons said after the game, via Ian Begley of ESPN.
“It’s surreal knowing that the game’s been played for a long time and so many greats have been through,” Simmons said. “I’ve set a record with Magic and Oscar Robertson, which is surreal to me.”
Simmons is in a close race with Utah’s Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the Year — both men are leading their teams to the postseason, although doing it in different ways with different styles of game. It’s not an easy choice.
“I think to anoint him ‘you’re only a point guard forever’ is not in my mind,” Brown said before the Sixers’ 118-110 win over the Knicks. “I think it’s going to be a one (point guard) or a four (power forward), that’s where I see him.”
“Definitely a one, not four,” Simmons said. “I don’t want to play a four. I mean, I’ll play the four but I don’t want to be predominantly in the four position because I feel like I can do a lot more from the point guard position, as you’ve seen.”
Simmons as a small-ball four in certain matchups, going against a stretch four from another team, makes some sense. He shouldn’t be defending a more physical four — don’t match him up against a Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Paul Millsap kind of four — but Simmons could play a little as a big.
The real question: Why would you want to take the ball out of his hands as a point guard? Those rookie numbers are not a fluke.
Three Things to Know: Shorthanded Wizards find way to beat even more shorthanded Celtics
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Shorthanded Wizards find way in double overtime to beat shorthanded Celtics in thriller. Every coach in the NBA preaches the “next man up” mentality to dealing with injuries. But Wednesday night in Boston, the next man up for the Celtics might have had to be some guy coach Brad Stevens pulled out of the first row — the Celtics were without four out of five starters. There was a whole lot of star power not playing — no John Wall, no Kyrie Irving, no Al Horford — but we were still entertained, this was a thriller.
One the road, the Wizards started out with a flat effort, especially defensively, and the Celtics got a big first quarter from Marcus Morris, then Greg Monroe was scoring off the bench, and midway through the second quarter the Celtics were up 20. Marcus’ brother Markieff Morris wanted in on the action, scored 11 in the second quarter to started the Wizards comeback, then in the second half it was like Bradley Beal said “I’m the only All-Star in this game” and just took over, and pretty soon we had a ballgame again.
Boston had the lead by three with 5.5 seconds left, and Washington’s Otto Porter was driving the lane for a layup, Marcus Morris started to contest then realized he should let Porter have a two, but ended up in a no-man’s land and had forgotten about veteran sharpshooter Jodie Meeks in the corner, so we are headed to overtime.
Boston could have won it in the first OT — down two with 8.4 seconds left rookie Jayson Tatum drove the lane, hit the free layup and drew the foul. But you have to hit the free throw to get the and-1 point, and Tatum missed forcing a second overtime.
Tatum had a three at the buzzer in the second overtime but that did not fall either, and the Wizards escaped with a 125-124 win.
The Celtics are pretty much locked into the two seed in the East, they just need to get healthy and the loss doesn’t hurt them in the standings. For the fifth-seeded Wizards in a jumbled middle of the East, this win helps them hold on to their spot and stay within striking distance of the fourth-seeded Cavaliers (Washington is just one game back).
2) Lakers’ Isaiah Thomas, Julius Randle get into it on the bench during game, but afterward it’s all good. On the court, Isaiah Thomas and Julius Randle have developed a little chemistry — Thomas as the playmaking guard, Randle as the bull using his physicality and athleticism to get what he wants inside.
But the two got into it on the bench during Wednesday night’s game against the Warriors. Brook Lopez and Lonzo Ball had to step in and be the voices of reason.
Randle was heated, Thomas looked like he just wanted to explain himself, and by the end of the game it was all good, they were joking and talking Randle put it this way:
“It’s great, honestly. We expect a lot out of each other. It was just communicating. We expect a lot out of each other, we want to win, we expect to win these games and we expect each other to play at a certain level. It’s just us being teammates. There’s nobody I’d rather go to war with than I.T., so it’s nothing personal. We’re just trying to get the best out of each other to try and win the game.”
Nothing to see here, move along. Oh, also the Warriors won the game 117-106 behind 26 from Kevin Durant.
3) Bucks, Heat both lose to tanking teams on Wednesday night. In theory, we don’t know that the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat are going to be stuck where they are and finish the season as the seven and eight seeds in the East — both teams are within a game (Bucks) or 1.5 games (Heat) of moving up in the standings.
In practice at this point in the season, if you’re losing to tanking teams it’s a bad sign. And you’re going to finish at the bottom of the seedings (although neither is in danger of falling out of the playoffs).
The Heat fell to the Sacramento — who have been losing but scrappy of late — when Kings rookie De'Aaron Fox nailed another buzzer beater to force overtime.
Buddy Hield had 4 of his 24 points in overtime to help secure the Sacramento win.
The entire Milwaukee squad looked like they had a Disney World hangover — usually teams do this in Miami/New York/Los Angeles, but to each his own — and came out flat from the start against Orlando. Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to form with 38 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, but the rest of the team just looked disinterested. Meanwhile, the Magic cared. Jonathon Simmons had a career-high 35 points and drained 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, D.J. Augustin outplayed Eric Bledsoe on his way to 32 points, and Nikola Vucevic dominated inside for stretches and pitched in 22 points.
Three Things to Know: Young Lakers figuring it out
LOS ANGELES —Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) While we were busy trying to tune LaVar Ball out, young Lakers have developed into a quality team on the rise. Heading into this season, reasonable Lakers fans (there are a few) had goals for their team of mid-30s in wins, improvement and growth as the season wore on, and building the kind of foundation that will attract free agents because they see they can win there down the line.
Since Jan. 8, the Lakers are 18-9, with the ninth best offense and 11th best defense in the NBA, and they have outscored teams by 3.1 points per 100 possessions in that stretch. Los Angeles is on pace for about 38 wins, Brandon Ingram has emerged as a reliable scorer, Kyle Kuzma surprised everyone with a strong rookie season, Julius Randle is a beast, and Lonzo Ball has found his shot (39.7 percent from three in his last 20 games) and brings the intangibles needed to push this team to new heights.
Through all the distractions and drama, the Lakers are right on schedule.
It all came together Sunday night as the Lakers ran past the Cavaliers 127-113, a game where Isaiah Thomas got a little revenge on his old team with 20 points and nine assists. A couple of things were clear sitting at this game. First, the Lakers thrive playing up-tempo, something that left the Cavaliers defense scrambling. It’s not just Lonzo Ball (although he is a catalyst), the Lakers play at the fastest pace in the league for the season and guys like Kuzma, Randle, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope thrive in it. Cleveland was cross-matching and lost in transition defense, the Lakers were moving the ball, attacking the rim and all of that led to good looks.
“We knew if we got out in transition on this team, we could have some success,” Randle said. “So that’s what we tried to do.”
The other thing evident on Sunday: Julius Randle is going to get PAID this summer. Sources say are multiple teams have set their targets the restricted free agent big man (Dallas is near the front of that list), and his play is forcing the Lakers to reconsider their plans. Los Angeles has hoarded cap space to go after two max salaries this summer, but to do so meant letting Randle walk (or he would have to resign for far less than he’s worth). That two max guys strategy has risks, starting with can the Lakers land two guys worth that money? But Randle’s play has raised the question, should Los Angeles go after one max player and then use that money to re-sign Randle?
Sunday night Randle showed exactly why other teams are getting in line to make offers in July.
Randle has limitations to his game (no jumper, for one) but Luke Walton has done an excellent job at putting him in spots to play to his strengths — playing downhill attacking the basket, being physical, and getting rebounds. With teams switching everything on picks, it creates mismatches for a physically strong player to attack one-on-one. Randle just powered through Jeff Green multiple times Sunday night, and the small-ball Cavaliers had no other answer, so Randle racked up a career-best 36 points.
“Everybody’s had a hard time with him of late,” LeBron James said of Randle.
That’s true of the entire Lakers team.
2) Kyrie Irving misses second half with knee soreness, Pacers beat Celtics, move ahead of Cavaliers to three seed. The biggest news to come out of Sunday was this: Kyrie Irving did not play the second half against Indiana due to general knee soreness, and it sounds like he is going to get some rest down the stretch. Irving has had concerns about his knee since breaking his kneecap in the 2015 NBA Finals, and now he needs to get it some rest. We’ll see if he plays Wednesday for Boston vs. Washington, but the Celtics need him at full power for the playoffs — Boston’s already pedestrian offense is 7.6 points per 100 possessions worse when Irving sits this season.
Without Irving, the Celtics shot 38.9 percent in the second half and could not hold off Victor Oladipo (27 points) and the Pacers Sunday, falling 99-97. Combine that with the Raptors rolling the Knicks, and the Celtics are now 3.5 games back of Toronto and not likely to make up that ground for the top seed in the East heading into the playoffs.
However, if getting the top seed to avoid Cleveland in the second round is the goal, the Raptors may be in trouble. With Indiana’s win and the Cavaliers getting swept in Los Angeles over the weekend, the Pacers are now the three seed in the East and Cleveland has fallen to fourth. We’ll see if that lasts, the Pacers have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the NBA, but the idea of the Cavaliers as the four seed is not out of the question.
3) Out West, Anthony Davis returns to starting lineup, posts a triple-double with 10 blocks, and it’s not enough vs. Jazz. Also, the Timberwolves beat the Warriors. Out West, things got a little tighter on Sunday. If that’s even possible.
It was good news for the Pelicans that Anthony Davis only missed one game with a sprained ankle, and he returned with a vengeance scoring 25 points and blocking 10 shots.
But that wasn’t enough — Utah’s defense held New Orleans down and Ricky Rubio had 30 points on the way to a 116-99 win. That win kept the Jazz in a virtual three-way tie with the Clippers and Nuggets for the final playoff slot in the West. All three of those teams are just 3.5 games back of Portland in the three seed.
The other big game in the West was Minnesota getting 31 from Karl-Anthony Towns and beating the shorthanded Warriors 109-103. That moved Minnesota up to the five seed, in a virtual tie with New Orleans for fourth.
Too early to panic, but banged-up Cavaliers unimpressive getting swept in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — It’s way, way too early to hit the panic button in Cleveland. A month from now, when the playoffs start, this weekend of ugly losses in Los Angeles could be lost to the dustbin of history.
Kevin Love should be back in a week or so, providing an offensive boost and a passer out of the post/elbow in the half court the Cavaliers need. Tristan Thompson will be available again to bang with guys like the Lakers’ Brook Lopez or Julius Randle (that pair torched the Cavs to the tune of 58 points Sunday). Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman should be back and providing depth and shooting. Once guys are healthy, the rotations should stabilize and improve. Plus, with more time together for this revamped roster, the offensive sets and defensive communication should improve. Coach Tyronn Lue said pregame they were still in the “simplistic” phase of implementing what he wants this team to do on offense.
Still, Cavaliers fans might want to locate that panic button. Just in case.
Since the All-Star break the Cavaliers are 4-6, with the 13th ranked offense and 22nd ranked defense in the NBA. Cleveland just got swept in Los Angeles over the weekend where in consecutive games the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and the Lakers’ Julius Randle bullied Cleveland’s small-ball lineups to the tune of 56 combined points.
With those two weekend losses, the Cavaliers have fallen back to the four seed in the East, half a game behind Indiana (which beat Boston Sunday). In Los Angeles, the Cavaliers did not look like the team Toronto and Boston have to go through to reach the Finals, rather it appeared to be the other way around.
Right now, injuries are at the forefront of that in Cleveland.
“At the end of the day, you have to want the most out of whoever you have on the floor,” LeBron said Sunday night. “You want the most from whoever is playing, but sometimes you just can’t overcome this many injuries. We have pretty much five guys out of our top nine or 10 out of the of the rotation or not playing because of their injuries. In this next man up (mentality), sometimes you just fall short.”
However, injuries are not all of it.
Cleveland’s new, younger core is at least trying on defense — a step up from what the Cavs did in January — but this not a team of great individual defenders after LeBron. Plus, building a cohesive team defense takes time this group hasn’t had (and will not have enough of): Cleveland’s communication on things such tagging roll guys, helping the helper, and challenging shooters at the arc have a long way to go. On Sunday, the Lakers’ league-leading pace scrambled the Cavaliers defense on multiple occasions (the game was played at a 104 possession pace). Most glaringly on Sunday night, the Cavaliers just did not have an answer for the Lakers’ big men Randle (36 points, a career high) and Brook Lopez (22 points).
“We knew if we got out in transition on this team, we could have some success,” Randle said.
“I think the rebounding hurts us, I think the physicality on the block, having to double team the post left us scrambling around,” Lue said after the Lakers’ loss. “That’s what we have to do right now, so no excuses. But we’ve got to play better.”
There are a lot of issues to address and not a lot of time to do it. The Cavaliers’ offense often gets stagnant and ends with LeBron in isolation — against the Clippers 38.5 percent of LeBron’s offensive possessions (where he finished the possession) were in isolation, and if you combine isolations and postups and it gets to 50 percent of his possessions. Against the Lakers 38 percent of LeBron’s possessions were isos or post ups. It can work for the Cavaliers because LeBron is so dominant a scorer, and because he is a brilliant passer.
Right now, LeBron just doesn’t have the guys around him to take advantage of his skill set or the MVP-level season he is in the midst of (he will finish in the top five in MVP voting).
Sunday, the Cavaliers tied the game up at 76-76 in the third, then the Lakers went on a 22-6 run and that was ultimately the ballgame. LeBron played well at the start of the fourth, but the Cavs couldn’t get stops and Los Angeles was never really threatened again.
Walking to the bench after a timeout midway through the fourth with his team down 19, LeBron had a look of frustration and disgust on his face — the same look he had through much of a dismal January.
Come the playoffs (and, more importantly, July) those looks may be a thing of the past, something long forgotten in the grind of a long NBA season.
But it’s something to file away. Just in case.
Watch Lonzo Ball hit go-ahead then dagger three lifting Lakers past Spurs
While the world outside the Lakers locker room has been entirely too focused on his bombastic father, Lonzo Ball has grown during his rookie season. Part of that is a comfort level with his shot — he is shooting better than 40 percent from three since Dec. 1 (he missed time in there due to injury). It’s not that his release is quicker, it’s just he understands better now how to get space and not rush it. Beyond that, the game has slowed down for him — he’s got great passing instincts but was making rushed and poor decisions early in the season, particularly on drives to the rim. Now he looks settled.
Just as Gregg Popovich and the Spurs — Ball hit two key threes late that put the Lakers ahead then sank the dagger in San Antonio on Saturday night. The Lakers beat the Spurs 116-112, with Ball having 18 points and 11 assists, and Julius Randle scoring 25.
The Lakers are hustling on defense and figuring out how to use their length, they are moving the ball on offense, and they have gone 16-7 in their last 23. They’re not going to climb back into the playoff race at this point, but they are developing into something.