NBA has entered the era of the triple-double, with more now than ever

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It’s the 3-point era in the NBA. The massive-salary era. The LeBron James era.

It’s also the triple-double era.

If it seems like triple-doubles are happening more often than ever, that’s because they are — by a huge margin. On average, the NBA has seen someone put up at least 10 of this, 10 of that and 10 of those in one out of every seven games this season.

The rate of them happening is up 47% over last season, plus represents a staggering increase of nearly 700% over how often they occurred just nine years ago — when there were 18 in the entire 2011-12 season.

They happen with amazing regularity now. That doesn’t mean everyone is enthralled.

“I get it. They’re nice, round numbers and people get into those things in sports,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “But I’ve never really been one who thought a whole lot of the whole triple-double thing.”

He’s right. Some of them don’t seem to have much of an impact on the game.

Then there’s what Russell Westbrook — the triple-double king — did Monday night.

Westbrook had 35 points, 14 rebounds and 21 assists to lead Washington to a win. It was only the third time someone had that many points and that many assists in an NBA game; throw in the rebounds, and Westbrook’s night was unprecedented.

“He does things I’ve never seen and I’ve been in this league for 30 years,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s a winner.”

If people are bored by the triple-double, it might be Westbrook’s fault. He’s been making them seem like nightly happenings for years.

The reasons for the rise leaguewide in triple-doubles are many, but two of them are clear: the “freedom of movement” emphasis in officiating favors the offensive player, so that means more points and more assists. So, too, does the increased pace of play, which also leads to more rebound opportunities. There are about eight more possessions and eight more shot attempts per team as compared to nine years ago, and every possession leads to a statistic of some sort.

“To me, they’re such arbitrary numbers,” Van Gundy said. “What, if you get 10, 10 and 10 that’s better than 35, nine and nine? … There’s a big difference between 15 points and 35 points. There’s a big difference between 10 rebounds and 18 rebounds. And there’s a big difference between 10 assists and 17 assists. So, to say a triple-double is a measure of a great game, I don’t know.”

This is the fifth consecutive year that the NBA has seen players collect at least 100 triple-doubles; Westbrook got another one Tuesday night for No. 100, and in game No. 692, that’s the fastest the league has ever gotten to the century mark. Westbrook’s triple-double Tuesday was his league-best 17th. Going into Tuesday, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Brooklyn’s James Harden had 12 apiece, and were followed by Dallas’ Luka Doncic with nine.

Put another way, we’ve seen practically as many triple-doubles in the last five years as in the 15 seasons before that combined.

Even some players seem less-than-impressed by them these days.

“I could care less about a triple-double,” Miami’s Jimmy Butler said after he had one in last season’s NBA Finals. “We play this game to win.”

Here’s another example of how common the triple-double is getting: in the entirety of the 2011-12 season, only one player — Rajon Rondo, with six — had more than one of them. This season has already seen 14 players with multiple triple-doubles, a number that will almost certainly grow.

The record for most in one season is 127. That will likely get shattered; the league is on pace to top 150 for the season. On March 13, five players had them on the same day, the first time that’s happened in NBA history. The five: Harden, Westbrook, Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“It’s not always about scoring,” Antetokounmpo said. “You can manipulate the game in different ways: passing, finding your teammates, putting them in the right spot.”

TJ McConnell of the Indiana Pacers had a triple-double with steals back on March 3, just the 11th of those ever. There have clearly been nights where a player knows he’s a rebound or an assist away from getting a triple-double and might become singularly focused on getting that one last stat; that’s not so easy to do with steals, which made McConnell’s one of the more impressive in a while.

“I just let the game come to me,” McConnell said.

They just come in bunches now. From 2009-10 through 2013-14, only Rondo and Andre Iguodala had back-to-back triple-doubles. This season alone, four players — Westbrook, Harden, Butler and Antetokounmpo — have had streaks of at least three in a row.

And Westbrook — with 163 and counting, 18 away from Oscar Robertson’s all-time record — is in position to average double-digits in points, rebounds, and assists for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

“He fills a stat sheet like nobody does in the history of this game,” Brooks said.

Yes, the triple-double is now ordinary.

But as Westbrook showed Monday, they can still be extraordinary.

Khris Middleton says he will miss start of season following wrist surgery

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Two
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When Khris Middleton first went under the knife this summer to clean up issues with his left wrist, he expected to return in time for the start of the season.

At Bucks media day Sunday, Middleton said he’s not going to make that opening night goal but should be back early in the season, as reported by Jamal Collier of ESPN.

The Bucks open the season on the road Oct. 18 against the Celtics (who have their own set of issues heading into this year).

Middleton’s importance to the Bucks was evident in the playoffs, when not having him as a secondary shot creator was a key aspect of their seven-game loss to the Celtics.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last season. A healthy Bucks team — with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Jrue Holiday as the core — enter the season as serious title contenders. But they need Middleton, so they will not rush him back.

Zion, Nash, Davis: Seven players, coaches who enter NBA season under pressure

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Every NBA season comes with pressure — the pressure to win, the pressure of fan emotions and expectations, and for players the pressure that this is their livelihood. There is real pressure to stick in the NBA and earn that handsome paycheck.

But some players and coaches enter this season under more pressure than others.

Here are seven players and coaches who are under added pressure this season.

Anthony Davis

“This is not going to work without AD. No disrespect to Bron, no disrespect to Russ. They’re going to be who they are… but AD, having AD available…. it’s going to be invaluable. He’s the centerpiece to that championship table we’re trying to build.”

That was new Lakers coach Darvin Ham talking about Anthony Davis — the lynchpin to everything Ham hopes to do in Los Angeles. As he said, LeBron James will be LeBron (read: elite, even at age 37), and Russell Westbrook will be Russell Westbrook (he’s saying all the right things, but…), but if the Lakers are going to be any threat in the West it starts with Davis. Ham needs the Davis from the bubble — healthy, elite defender, playmaker, solid midrange jump shot — because he plans to run the offense through AD.

More than just this season, the Lakers have to come to a decision: Is Davis the No.1 option they can turn the franchise over to after LeBron steps away? Can he physically carry that burden and not break down? Davis can be one of the game’s elites, but is he ready to carry the Lakers franchise? Their future direction depends on that answer.

Zion Williamson

The acquisition of CJ McCollum last season helped bring the Pelicans together. They made a push into the playoffs with a solid core of McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance, Devonte' Graham and others. Watching New Orleans you couldn’t help but think, “If Zion Williamson were healthy…”

Now we get to find out. Williamson is reportedly in the best shape of his life (take all offseason conditioning comments with a shaker of salt) and ready to resume his role as a No.1 offensive option and maybe the best interior scorer in the game. The pressure of getting paid is off Williamson — he got his max extension — but the pressure of living up to it is just starting.

Steve Nash

When your star player says “him or me” during the offseason — even if that ultimatum gets rescinded — you enter the season under a microscope. Nash would have been getting a close look even if Kevin Durant didn’t drag his name into his offseason drama — there are plenty of front office people around the league not convinced Nash is up to the task in Brooklyn. There is enormous pressure on this team to get things right — to avoid a meltdown — and if things go at all sideways in Brooklyn Nash will be the fall guy. His seat is already warm.

Kyrie Irving

While we’re in Brooklyn… Ben Simmons is the logical first name to pop into your head when thinking of players under pressure with the Nets — and with good reason. We haven’t seen him on an NBA court in over a year and his play and fit are critical to the Nets’ hopes of contending. But there is another player who faces real contract pressure in Brooklyn.

Kyrie Irving wanted a trade out of Brooklyn this summer, the Nets said “go ahead and find one,” and Irving found his market was not nearly as deep and strong as he expected (the Lakers were interested, and he reportedly was interested in them, but any trade would have involved Russell Westbrook and got too tricky). Irving is in a contract year now and there is pressure on him to remind everyone that, when focused and committed, he is an All-NBA point guard and game changer. But will he stay focused and committed this season?

Tom Thibodeau

Knicks president Leon Rose came out this week in a softball-filled interview on MSG Network and backed his coach. When asked if Thibodeau was under pressure, Rose said, “I don’t see it that way at all. The way I say it is we’re continuing with the plan.” Nothing went according to plan with the Knicks last season. While not all of that was Thibodeau’s fault — he didn’t cause Julius Randle‘s shooting regression — if things get off to another slow start after spending money on Jalen Brunson this summer, somebody is going to have to pay the price. Thibodeau’s job may not be as secure as Rose tries to paint.

James Harden

James Harden is positioned to have a monster regular season. He’s asked to be more of a playmaker, get the ball to MVP candidate Joel Embiid, put Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris in positions to thrive, and score a few points in there as well. Harden could be poised for an All-NBA level regular season — and then the playoffs start. That’s where the pressure is. Harden’s long history of playoff foibles (including some flat outings against the Heat last year) will be under a microscope this season because Daryl Morey has built a team of solid role players — this team is good enough. It’s up to Harden (and Embiid) to prove he can also be an elite player in the postseason.

Kawhi Leonard

Steve Ballmer has paid an enormous… well, it’s chump change to him, but it’s still an enormous amount of money to turn the Clippers from league laughing stock into a respected franchise (sorry, it’s true Lakers fans). These Clippers are contenders. But that title contention rests on the shoulders of Kawhi Leonard. He has to both be healthy and play like the guy who helped lift the Raptors to a title. If Leonard and Paul George are healthy and playing like their All-NBA selves come the postseason the Clippers are a massive threat — two-way wings win playoff series and the Clippers would have two of them. It’s just on Leonard (and Paul) to be that guy.

Westbrook says he’s ‘all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win’

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
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Welcome to NBA media day, when optimism overflows and everyone swears there are no chemistry problems, no fit questions, it’s all puppies and rainbows with their team.

The night before Lakers media day, Russell Westbrook got a head start on saying the right thing in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Trade? Not worried about it. Fit? Not going to be a problem. Everyone is good now if you ask Westbrook, and he was in trade talks all summer is irrelevant.

“I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted [by the Lakers] or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete…

Maybe [he is] as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”

Words are nice, but actions are what will matter. Westbrook reportedly said all the right things to LeBron James and Anthony Davis a year ago before getting traded to the team, but his not wanting to play a role and fit in was a big issue. Westbrook swears it won’t be this time, whatever Ham wants Westbrook will execute.

“There’s so much optimism on how we can be great, how AD, LeBron, myself — can be unstoppable in my opinion,” Westbrook said.

That’s optimism. Even if Westbrook fits in, Davis stays healthy all season, and LeBron continues to defy father time, these Lakers are not title contenders. A playoff team for sure, but not contenders.

These Lakers will face adversity — maybe early, Los Angeles has a rough first couple of weeks — and how the Lakers, under new coach Darvin Ham, respond to those challenges will define their season. Last season’s response from the Lakers was… not good. They rolled over. Ham has promised not to let that happen, but there will be things out of his control.

Last season Westbrook was one of those things for Frank Vogel, we’ll see how he responds this season.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

Jae Crowder does salsa dance in Suns-Lakers Game 6
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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.