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NBA AM: The Elusive Quadruple-Double

Last December, Ricky Rubio seriously flirted with a quadruple-double but fell short. History has proven it’s no easy task.

Joel Brigham

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When Nate “The Great” Thurmond passed away earlier this month, there was a lot to be said about what a good dude he was, but the Hall of Famer was also known for being one of the more dominant players of his era. This of course means that when it came time to talk about his massive list of accomplishments as a player, just about every conversation was going to start with his quadruple-double back in 1974.

Keep in mind that the NBA didn’t keep track of blocks and steals until the 1973-1974 season, which means there are probably 20-30 games’ worth of unrecorded quadruple-doubles hanging out there just from Wilt Chamberlain alone. Bill Russell probably had his fair share of them, too.

Despite all of that, Thurmond was the first person to post basketball’s statistical Holy Grail, and only three other players have accomplished it in the years since.

In fact, it’s been over 22 years since the last time an NBA player pulled off the feat, further proving just how rare it really is. Michael Jordan never did it. Neither did Magic Johnson or Jason Kidd. LeBron James has never done it, and while statistical machines like Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook have come close at various points in their careers, they haven’t done it, either.

Just four guys ever. That’s it, and Thurmond was one of them. Here’s the story of his quadruple-double, as well as the others that have gone down in the last 43 years:

Nate Thurmond, Chicago Bulls (October 18, 1974)
The Line: 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, 12 blocks

The thing about this game is that it was the first game of the season and Thurmond’s first as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Eager to keep up with a burgeoning Lew Alcindor, Chicago made the move to acquire Thurmond from the Warriors so they could team him up with a really strong Bulls team that also featured greats like Bob Love, Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker and Jerry Sloan.

A couple of things played into Thurmond’s statistical favor in this game, however, as Love, Van Lier and Walker all were holding out for better contracts at the start of the season. That put the ball in the new guy’s hands a whole lot more, obviously and that, compounded by the extra minutes he got playing in an overtime game, gave him a great opportunity to ring in one of the great statistical performances on record.

“One thing I distinctly remember was going back to my apartment after the game—I was just dead. I didn’t realize I had numbers spread out like that, across four categories until the next morning,” Thurmond said in a 2006 interview with Bulls.com. “It was my 12th year, and from that standpoint, the quadruple-double was just another game.

“But, as I look back now, I realize just how special a performance it was. At the time, nobody even talked about triple-doubles, so no one was really aware that I’d done something unprecedented.”

While Thurmond swears he must have had quadruple-doubles before that one, the feat proved unique enough for there to be a 12-year gap between his 4D and the next one.

Alvin Robertson, San Antonio Spurs (February 18, 1986)
The Line: 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals

The most significant thing about Robertson’s quadruple-double is that he’s the only guy in history to have accomplished one with steals as the fourth category. As a former Defensive Player of the Year and a four-time All-Star, Robertson didn’t just trip and fall into this great game, but of all the guys to have accomplished it he’s the only one who hasn’t been named to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

In fact, there probably are plenty of casual fans today who have never even heard of the guy, which is a shame considering he’s the reason fans were graced with defensive legends like Gary Payton, who had this to say about Robertson’s smothering defense:

“Alvin Robertson would make your life miserable. He was a hawkish defensive player. He’s who I modeled my defense after,” Payton once told ESPN. “He’s one of those guys who’ll stay with you for 94 feet. If he was in front of me and it was my last day on earth, I wouldn’t want him there. How do I beat him?”

Robertson was the king of hand-checking before hand-checking was illegal, which likely played a role in his dominant defense efforts, but however he snagged his 10 steals in that quadruple-double game, it put him in a group all by himself. He’s a legend among legends, at least in the context of this statistical category.

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets (March 29, 1990)
The Line: 18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 11 blocks

The most insane thing about this particular quadruple-double is what happened 23 days beforehand. On March 3, Olajuwon put up a similarly ungodly line of 29 points, 18 rebounds, 9 assists and 11 blocks, leaving him one assist shy of being the third player ever to earn a quadruple-double.

That’s not the weird thing, though. After the game, Houston Rockets head coach Don Chaney and media-relations director Jay Goldberg went back over the game tape with the ol’ proverbial fine-toothed comb and found an uncredited assist in the first quarter that would have granted Olajuwon the 4D. The team issued a revised box score to media and everything, and those who run a Google search for “NBA quadruple doubles” will find more than a couple of websites claiming that Olajuwon remains the only player to have posted two of them.

Officially, though, he only has the one, which came a few weeks later because NBA director of operations Rod Thorn went back over the film of that March 3 game again to make sure everything was Kosher, only to discover that Olajuwon not only shouldn’t have been given credit for 10 assists, there were several others that were awarded rather generously as well.

So that one didn’t count. The one that happened on March 29, however, did, putting an exclamation point on one of the most dominant statistical months in league history.

David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs (February 17, 1994)
The Line: 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 blocks

Imagine if Draft Kings was a thing in 1994 and you somehow had the wherewithal to pay the premium for that line. Just a couple of nights earlier he came just one assist shy of posting a triple-double, but when he faced former Spurs teammate Sean Elliott and the Detroit Pistons on February 17, he just shredded the sad defensive efforts of aging big men Cadillac Anderson and Charles Jones, scoring at will and finding the open man all night long.

It was so bad, in fact, that Robinson had his quadruple-double with five minutes left in the game. Head coach John Lucas played Robinson at “point-center” that evening, running the entire offense through him, and it led to his dishing out more assists than all of the Pistons’ guards combined that night.

After the game, Lucas said, “He was just great, but I was mad at him. He missed seven three-throws. He should have had 41 points.”

Despite his “disappointing” scoring effort, Robertson still scored more points with a quadruple-double than any other player in history, and to this day nobody else has done what only he, Olajuwon, Robinson and Thurmond have done.

Almost Doesn’t Count

That doesn’t mean others haven’t come close. There have been eight games in NBA history where players were just one number short of the quadruple-double, and Olajuwon’s narrow miss in early March of 1990 was one of them. Rick Barry, Larry Steele, Johnny Moore, Larry Bird, Michael Ray Richardson and Clyde Drexler all got close to getting it done, with Drexler’s 25-point, 10-rebound, 10-steal, 9-assist effort against Sacramento in 1996 being the most recent close attempt we’ve had.

That was almost 20 years ago. We will, of course, see another one someday. In fact, just this past December Ricky Rubio put up a line of 9 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and 8 steals, so we know it’s possible in today’s NBA.

We also know it’s hard, and that only great players ultimately get it done. That, of course, begs the question: who will be the next guy to make it happen?

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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal

Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.

Spencer Davies

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.

Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.

So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.

You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.

With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.

He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.

But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.

Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.

Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.

These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.

Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.

The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.

Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.

The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.

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NBA Daily: Zach LaVine Has Solid Debut With Bulls

Zach LaVine put together a solid performance for the Bulls in his first game back from injury.

James Blancarte

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The Chicago Bulls are turning a corner this season. Zach LaVine is healthy after completing a year of rehabilitation from an ACL injury. LaVine’s return comes at a critical moment. The team is 13-7 over the last twenty games. Many of the wins in this stretch are over current competitors for a potential spot in the playoffs. This includes wins against the Charlotte Hornets (in overtime), the Philadelphia 76ers and three wins (one in overtime) against the New York Knicks. The stretch of winning ties into the return of forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Having these key players back and winning this many games recently has changed the dynamics of what had been shaping up to be a losing season.

LaVine played in his first game of the season on Saturday and hit three of four three-point baskets while scoring 14 points in 19 minutes played. LaVine described how he felt physically and about the team’s recent run.

“I thought I did pretty good. I was tired as hell at first. But, we got the win,” LaVine said. “We’re going to keep this thing going.”

The team went into this season having parted ways with their franchise player, Jimmy Butler, in a trade that was derided by many for being lopsided. The trade netted the Bulls LaVine, point guard Kris Dunn and the sixth pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for Butler and the number 16 pick. The trade also allowed Butler to be reunited with coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. For the Bulls, Dunn has greatly improved from the poor play of his rookie season in Minnesota. In addition, the Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen, whom has already displayed some serious talent and potential. Now with LaVine in the lineup, the Bulls can see the total value of the trade on the court.

So, where do the Bulls now stand? According to FiveThirtyEight, as of January 14, the Bulls are projected as having a three percent chance of making the playoffs with a projected record of 32-50. This is a jump from less than one percent (essentially zero percent) back on December 11, 2017. Still, three percent is not the most reassuring projection.

In addition, the recent shift to winning basketball also puts Chicago’s 2018 draft pick in a more precarious position. On December 6, 2017, the Bulls were 3-20 and were on pace to have one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst. Now every win moves the pick further away from a likely top three or even a potential number one pick and moves it closer to a top-10 selection or even middle of the first-round pick.

At the moment, the team is 16-27, good enough for 12th place in the Eastern Conference behind the Hornets, Knicks, 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. Being 6.5 games back and having seven more losses than the Bucks means the Bulls will need to continue winning at a high rate to make up the difference in the time left in the season.

LaVine didn’t hold back when it came to expressing his optimism regarding the team’s potential.

“I think we can make a push for this thing,” LaVine said. “That’s our job to do. That’s our job to do that,”

LaVine isn’t paying much attention to skeptics who still don’t believe the Bulls have much change to win anything meaningful this season.

“You know, we can’t control outside thoughts or anything,” LaVine said. “We’re ball players, we go out there and try to win every competition. You know, I think we’re good. I think we’re going to be good.”

In LaVine’s absence, Mirotic and Portis (despite their offseason scuffle) have emerged as two of the team’s best players. In addition, center Robin Lopez has done an admirable job keeping up his effort all season long while fulfilling his role as a veteran leader for the team. Lopez described the atmosphere on the team as positive recently in an interview with Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders.

Despite the reason for optimism, it must be noted that the franchise might make another big trade that would diminish the team’s ability to be competitive this season. Despite his recent on-court success, reports are that Mirotic would like to be traded and that the Bulls asking price is a first-round pick.

Until such a move occurs, the Bulls appear poised to maintain their recent rate of success. Every win could cost the Bulls what could be a top overall pick in 2018. Regardless, the Bulls are surely feeling better about the results of the Butler trade, especially after LaVine’s impressive Chicago debut.

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NBA Daily: Lopez’s Enjoys “Old Guy” Role on Young Team

Robin Lopez is the old man on a very young Chicago Bulls team, but he says the camaraderie is a big reason why he’s happy there, and why the team is overachieving so much this year.

Joel Brigham

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When the Chicago Bulls started the season 3-20, nobody was surprised that they stunk. Everything was fine. They were supposed to stink. That was the entire reason they traded away Jimmy Butler for younger players in the first place. They wanted got their rebuild underway in earnest. (more…)

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