OAKLAND — With one more big all-around night, Draymond Green will tie the Warriors’ franchise record for most career triple-doubles.
That basketball history came as a bit of a surprise to Jason Kidd, a triple-double aficionado, who figured the Warriors’ mark was put out of reach long ago by a certain 7-foot-1 Hall of Famer.
“Wilt (Chamberlain) didn’t have any triple-doubles?” Kidd asked.
Ay, there’s the rub. Kidd stressed that he was joking — he’s a big fan of Green’s wide-ranging skills — but he knows that triple-doubles are tough to put into historical context.
Consider that the Warriors’ mark belongs to Tom Gola, who played for the Philadelphia/San Francisco teams from 1955-62 — about 20 years before the phrase “triple-double” was born. Gola’s record was compiled retroactively when modern stat keepers tallied up the games in which Gola had double-digit points, rebounds and assists.
Even Green considers the stat a bit of a novelty. The do-everything forward had 11 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists Sunday night in the Warriors’ 139-115 victory over the Washington Wizards.
It was his 19th career triple-double and his fifth this season. Green could have reached the mark earlier in the game, when he needed one more basket, but instead passed up an open shot to register another assist.
“I had my selfish moment last year trying to chase a triple-double,” Green said after the game. “That ain’t for me. If it happens, it happens. … I don’t get off on stats. It does nothing for me.
“I’ve always been the guy where I’d rather you have it than me. …. I want to make the right basketball play. In the long run, your teammates appreciate that.”
He’s already in remarkable territory. In only his fifth season, Green has more career triple-doubles than Warriors icons Stephen Curry (seven), Rick Barry (six) and Chris Mullin (five) combined.
“That’s amazing for a young player to be able to do it so fast,” Kidd said. “It just shows how talented Draymond is. He’s a special player.”
But any triple-double stats come with a caveat. For one thing, neither steals nor blocks became NBA official statistics until the 1973-74 season, years after Chamberlain and Bill Russell were done patrolling the paint and swatting away shots like flies.
Chamberlain is credited with eight triple-doubles during his Warriors playing days (1959-65). But that only accounts for his points, rebounds and assists. There’s no telling how many nights of double-digit blocks “Wilt the Stilt” might have had to go with 33.3 points and 16.8 rebounds and per night with the Warriors.
Additionally, the “triple-double” concept is a relatively new phenomenon. Some credit the invention to former Los Angeles Lakers public relations man Bruce Jolesch, who came up with the statistic as a way of highlighting Magic Johnson’s wide-ranging talents.
Others point to Philadelphia 76ers media relations legend Harvey Pollack, a statistical legend whose innovations include being the first to separate rebounds into offensive and defensive categories.
Either way, the triple-double came in vogue in the early 1980s, long after the Warriors’ current king could have known he had the crown.
Gola was a 6-foot-6 swingman who earned the name “Mr. All-Around.” The former La Salle University star averaged 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds over 698 career games.
The five-time All-Star died in 2014. His former Warriors teammate, Tom Meschery, recalled that Gola provided a little bit of everything.
“He was an accurate and clever passer, tall enough to outrebound opponents, and a quality jump shooter,” Meschery, 78, wrote in an e-mail.
“He was a jack of all trades and a master of none, except in the brains department. He could out-think most players, and did.”
Mr. All-Around continued to show his versatility even in retirement. He was elected to the Pennsylvania State House as a Republican in 1968.
To account for Gola and other bygone players, teams went through old game logs. That’s how Oscar Robertson earned a belated claim to fame when it was discovered he is the only player to average a triple-double over the course of a season. (Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder is on track to match the feat this season).
The Big O put up 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game in 1961-62.
“I think that’s still the most unbelievable thing I’ve heard of, along with Wilt’s 100 points,” Magic Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in 2002.
Robertson still holds the all-time mark for career triple-doubles with 181, followed by Johnson (138) and Kidd (107).
Green has years to go to approach that territory, but he already has carved out a niche. On Feb. 10 in Memphis, the forward had 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals against the Grizzlies. In doing so, he became the first player in NBA history to register a triple-double with fewer than 10 points.
So unusual was Green’s stat line that Curry went back and watched the game tape with an eye toward his teammate’s positioning and energy.
“It’s such a unique performance. … It makes you think. You question how he did it,” Curry said March 18, still scratching his head. “That speaks volumes in itself. He knows how to impact the game in a lot of different ways.”
Green averages 10.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 2.07 steals and 1.40 blocks per game this season.
“We’ve been talking about it since his rookie year,” Curry said. “He finds a way to impact the game in all different areas, whether it’s shoring up the glass and getting rebounds or finding the open guy.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Warriors are 19-0 when Green registers a regular-season triple-double. Only four other players had 15-game winning streaks of this variety at any point: Johnson (24, 1984-87), Chamberlain (21, 1967-68), Westbrook (20, 2015-16), and Kidd (16, 1996 to 1999).
Green used to care desperately about such numbers, but now he speaks of indifference. Late last month, he did a double-take when asked if he knew he was approaching the triple-double mark.
“Am I?” Green said. “What’s the record?
Told it was 20, he still didn’t bite, not even when a reporter suggested it might be kind of cool.
“It would be kind of cool to get the championship record for the franchise,” Green said. “That’s what would be cool. That’s what you’ll be remembered for.”