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Auburn’s Sharife Cooper entering 2021 NBA draft

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Auburn freshman Sharife Cooper will declare for the 2021 NBA draft and forgo his remaining college eligibility by hiring an agent, he told ESPN.

“This season was a roller coaster filled with many ups and some downs,” Cooper said. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even through the bad times I enjoyed every second at Auburn.”

Cooper, the No. 17 prospect in the ESPN 100, was named to the SEC’s All-Rookie team after averaging 20.2 points and 8.1 assists per game.

He is considered one of the top point guard prospects in the 2021 draft class thanks to his ability to create offense for himself or teammates. He was one of only two freshmen in the past 30 years of college basketball, along with Oklahoma‘s Trae Young, to average over 20 points and 8 assists per game.

Cooper is intriguing to NBA teams due to his sharp ballhandling skills and his ability to get anywhere he wants on the court with a blazingly fast first step. He accelerates and decelerates past defenders effortlessly, while possessing the vision and creativity to find teammates on the move. According to Synergy Sports Technology data, Cooper led all of college basketball with the 39.6 points per game he created via assists or his own scoring, more than 20% higher than the next best prospect expected to be drafted (IllinoisAyo Dosunmu).

“I believe NBA teams only saw a glimpse of what I can do, whether that be my passing creativity, basketball IQ, leadership, as well as impact on winning,” Cooper said. “I would like to say I have a lot more to show.”

Cooper came to Auburn with significant fanfare, as a five-star recruit and a McDonald’s All American. His season was set back when he was held out of Auburn’s first 12 games as the NCAA initially refused to certify his eligibility. Cooper missed 72 days of practice before being cleared to play the night before Auburn’s game against in-state rival Alabama on Jan. 9. Thrown into the fire against one of the top teams in the country, Cooper delivered 26 points, 9 assists and 3 steals in 32 minutes in a narrow loss.

“It was mentally frustrating,” Cooper said. “Working so hard to prepare for your first college season, and a couple months before the season it’s all taken away without knowing why or if it will ever come back.

“On top of that, I couldn’t practice or be in the gym until late at night by myself. The day before we played Alabama, I get a text saying, ‘Lace your shoes up, you’re playing tomorrow.’ It was crazy because I didn’t even practice the plays yet and was supposed to play around 10-15 minutes. But looking back, I couldn’t be more thankful for my coaches, teammates, family and support staff for being in my corner that whole time.”

Auburn self-imposed a postseason ban on its 2020-21 season in November as part of the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into former assistant coach Chuck Person, making Cooper and his teammates unable to play in the SEC or NCAA tournaments.

The 2021 NBA draft will be held July 29, and the league has scheduled its draft combine for June 21, featuring competitive 5-on-5 action “subject to public health conditions.”

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The numbers behind Russell Westbrook’s triple-double records

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Oscar Robertson has owned the record for most career triple-doubles since 1961-62.

Now, the Big O will share that record with Russell Westbrook. And that might only last two days because Westbrook will go for sole possession of the record on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.

It had become an afterthought of when, not if, Westbrook would surpass Robertson this season with his triple-double tear. But the NBA world will celebrate Westbrook’s triple-double greatness tonight and when he breaks the record because milestones like these just don’t change hands often. The last time an NBA all-time record was broken was when Ray Allen passed Reggie Miller on the all-time 3-pointers made list in 2011. That was a decade ago!

This triple-doubles record has been The Big O’s since 1962. Only two men have ever recorded 180 or more triple-doubles. The legendary Magic Johnson never got past 138, Jason Kidd retired at 107 and LeBron James is the next active player with the most triple-doubles at 99. –Ohm Youngmisuk

Westbrook’s path to breaking Robertson’s record

Triple-double No. 1: The first triple-double of Westbrook’s NBA career came on March 2, 2009 with the Thunder — the only one of his rookie season.

Year 1 without Kevin Durant (2016-17): Westbrook recorded 42 triple-doubles to break the Big O’s single-season record set over 50 years prior.

The following year: In a visit to Atlanta, Westbrook joined Robertson, Johnson and Kidd as the only players with 100 career triple-doubles.

2019: Westbrook set the NBA record with 11 straight triple-doubles. Three of the four longest such streaks in league history belong to him. Later that year as a Rocket, Russ’ 28 points, 13 boards and 10 dimes moved him ahead of Magic Johnson on the NBA’s all-time triple-double list

Now? He’s since gone on to become the Wizards’ all-time triple-double leader.

Carving his name into NBA history

  • Westbrook recorded his 10th career triple-double vs the Pacers, his most against a single opponent. He is the fourth player in NBA history to record at least 10 triple-doubles against one team, joining Robertson, Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain.

  • Westbrook has a triple-double against all 30 teams not just once, but multiple times. While he has had never had a quadruple-double in his career, he has recorded a triple-double and at least 10 turnovers in a game five times. That is the most such games since individual turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78.

  • Over his career, only Westbrook and LeBron James rank within the top 10 in points, rebounds and assists. Since his rookie season in 2008-09, his 181 triple-doubles are more than double James’ second-place total over that span; Westbrook led all players on both teams in points, rebounds and assists outright 41 times in his career. That is the most such games in NBA history according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

  • Westbrook has recorded his fourth season with 700 rebounds and 700 assists, passing Robertson for the most in NBA history.

  • He will finish as the league leader in triple-doubles for the sixth time in his career, matching Robertson for the third-most seasons in NBA history. Only Kidd (11) and Johnson (10) have more such seasons.

ESPN’s Stats and Information contributed to this story.



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Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal scores 50, but absent for OT period due to hamstring strain

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Wizards guard Bradley Beal scored 50 points, but was absent for the end of regulation and overtime because of a hamstring strain as Washington edged Indiana 133-132 Saturday night to move into the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Pacers.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks was uncertain how serious Beal’s injury is, and that it might not be known for a couple of days. But he held him out in overtime as a precaution.

“He tweaked his hamstring,” Brooks said. “Actually, he tweaked his ankle and we didn’t want to push it at the end. He wanted to but our guys told him not to push it. Hopefully, it’s not too serious.”

Beal said during his postgame media availability that the hamstring injury intensified in the second half.

Beal has scored at least 25 points in 71 of his last 82 games and has eight games this season with 40 or more points.

Beal’s teammate Russell Westbrook, who tied Oscar Robertson’s NBA record for triple-doubles with 181, made two free throws with a second left to give Washington the overtime win, and also blocked the Pacers’ final shot.

The Wizards make the fourth stop on a five-game road trip Monday at Atlanta.

ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Russell Westbrook logs his 181st triple-double, tying Oscar Robertson’s record

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Russell Westbrook tied Oscar Robertson for most career triple-doubles with 181 and can own the record as soon as the Washington Wizards’ next game at Atlanta on Monday.

Westbrook matched the Hall-of-Fame point guard with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. Westbrook has been on an absolute tear in his first season as a Wizard, registering his 35th triple-double this season. He had 14 in the month of April alone, the most in NBA history.

Westbrook, 32, already owns the distinction of having the most triple-doubles in a season with 42 back in 2016-17.

He earned his fourth consecutive triple-double when he dished his 10th assist to Bradley Beal near the end of the third quarter.

The point guard has a triple-double in 21 of his last 25 games and has already clinched averaging a triple-double in the season for the fourth time in his career. Robertson has owned the all-time triple-double record since 1961-62, the same season that Robertson became the only other player to average a triple-double.

The last time an NBA all-time record was broken was when Ray Allen passed Reggie Miller on the all-time 3-pointers made list in 2011.

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