NBA

Oscar Robertson: I hope Russell Westbrook breaks my NBA record

By Sports Desk May 05, 2021

Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson is excited for Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook to break his triple-double record in the NBA.

Westbrook is only three triple-doubles away from surpassing Robertson for the all-time record after posting 29 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds in Wednesday's 135-134 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Former MVP Westbrook now has 179 career triple-doubles, just two away from matching 12-time All-Star Robertson – who won an NBA championship and MVP during his storied career.

"There's no doubt about it. I hope he gets it," Robertson told The New York Times midweek.

Westbrook has been averaging 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game – the fourth season in his career that he has averaged a triple-double.

The 2017 MVP and nine-time All-Star leads the NBA in assists per game and total assists (651) in 2020-21.

Robertson added: "I totally enjoy the way Westbrook plays. He's a dynamic individual. They've moved him around to different teams and I don't know why, because I think he's one of the star guards in basketball.

"I guess they thought that when he went to Washington that he would not be that effective, but, man, he's done a tremendous job."

Westbrook – who has also played for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets – is yet to win an NBA title, but Robertson said: "I think it's ridiculous that some sportswriters criticise him because he has not won a championship.

"Players don't win championships by themselves. You've got to have good management. You need to get with the right group of players.

"Look at Brooklyn: Who could have done this years ago? How things have changed. It seems now that what's happening in basketball, and I haven't seen it happen in football yet, is players will get together and say, 'Let's go and play for this team so we can win'. Years ago, you wouldn't have thought of doing that."

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    It was a modest record for a player as magnificent as Lionel Messi: three games, two final defeats, one red card, no goals.

    But the Barcelona great's Copa America performances against Chile prior to Monday's curtain-raising clash were not entirely out of keeping with the rest of his Argentina career.

    There have been moments of magic, of course, but just 15 goals across 46 Copa America and World Cup appearances ahead of this game. Meanwhile, not since 2007-08 has Messi fallen short of averaging a goal every two games for Barca, let alone one every three.

    Even Messi himself could not reasonably argue his international displays have come close to the standard set at club level.

    And while World Cup failures will always remain at the forefront of any such discussion – his achievements in contrast to Diego Maradona's one-man show in 1986 – the Copa America has provided its fair share of pain.

    The final defeats to Chile in 2015 and 2016 were among three for Messi and four for Argentina since their 14th and most recent title in 1993.

    Those two in consecutive years both came courtesy of penalty shoot-outs. Messi scored his spot-kick in the first match but missed the following year, setting his side on their way to another sore setback.

    It was fitting then, it seemed, that this latest campaign – surely one of Messi's last – would start against Chile and initially start in much more encouraging fashion.

    Neymar had set the standard against Venezuela the previous day.

    In front of empty, hushed stands that make it impossible to ignore the influence of politics in football – a popular topic of debate in 2021 – the pace was ponderous until the world's most expensive footballer got to work.

    Neymar scored one and created another in a 3-0 Brazil win. Along with five shots, he created seven chances – the most of any Selecao player in a Copa America match since his debut.

    It took 33 minutes, in which the absence of an atmosphere again jarred, but Messi rose to that challenge when presented with a free-kick in a central position, dipped over the wall and beyond the grasp of Claudio Bravo.

    That was one of seven Messi shots and he played four key passes, too. On paper, this ranked alongside Neymar's efforts.

    By full-time, though, it was a frustratingly familiar tale, as the supporting cast proved unable to suitably assist their superstar.

    Messi's excellence has excused a whole generation of Argentina internationals, absolved of blame because their great number 10 should have been able to win major tournaments alone.

    Too many hugely talented players have misfired on the big stage; Lionel Scaloni sent out some past and present examples.

    Lautaro Martinez is supposed to be the face of a young, new team. He had 11 goals in 23 prior internationals and should have added to that tally more than once in Rio de Janeiro.

    The Inter forward failed to hit the target with any of his three attempts and optimistically appealed for a foul following two of them when he inexplicably missed from point-blank range.

    And Martinez's frustration unfortunately came to the fore after 62 minutes when he lunged into an awful challenge on Charles Aranguiz under the nose of the referee and escaped with a booking.

    The 23-year-old's evening might have ended early with a red card. Instead, it was cut short by the introduction of Sergio Aguero.

    Chile had equalised five minutes prior to Martinez's moment of madness, one of a series of rash attempted tackles punished as a VAR review found Nicolas Tagliafico had made contact with Arturo Vidal in the area.

    Vidal took the penalty and Emiliano Martinez turned it onto the crossbar, but Eduardo Vargas was on hand to nod in his 13th Copa America goal – staying three clear of Messi and climbing into the top 10 all-time.

    Aguero followed Angel Di Maria onto the pitch as Argentina sought a response. Both players were not so long ago out of the picture under Scaloni, having previously been part of the Messi-led team that repeatedly came up short.

    In each Chile final, Di Maria started. Aguero was introduced from the bench in one and in the XI for the other.

    As on those occasions, there were no heroics from either on Monday. Di Maria, now 33, had two shots but neither troubled Bravo. Aguero, also 33, was caught offside once.

    Messi will be the story if Argentina do not deliver silverware in the coming weeks, just as he will be should they finally get over the hump.

    But the same problems persist. When Messi's free-kick set the stage, it was Martinez who could not step up, underwhelming again like too many past Argentina attackers.

    If this is to be the tournament in which Messi reaches his promised land, he is going to need some help.

  • Argentina 1-1 Chile: Vargas salvages a point after Messi moment of magic Argentina 1-1 Chile: Vargas salvages a point after Messi moment of magic

    A sublime Lionel Messi free-kick was not enough for Argentina to start the Copa America with a victory as Chile striker Eduardo Vargas salvaged a 1-1 draw.

    Argentina had much the better of the first half and mercurial captain Messi put them in front with a brilliant free-kick in the Group B encounter at Estadio Nilton Santos.

    Vargas came to Chile's rescue after the break, heading home the rebound after Emiliano Martinez saved Arturo Vidal's penalty.

    Nicolas Gonzalez was particularly wasteful as Argentina were unable to secure what would have been a deserved victory in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.

    Messi is yet to win a trophy with Argentina following back-to-back runners-up performances at the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, having also fallen short in the 2007 final against Brazil.

    Giovani Lo Celso was Chile's chief tormentor in a promising start from the Albiceleste, setting up chances that Lautaro Martinez and Gonzalez were unable to take.

    Gonzalez headed over the crossbar after his shot was palmed away by Claudio Bravo and the forward also failed to beat the Chile goalkeeper with a tame finish when the lively Lo Celso sent him clear with an incisive pass.

    Messi produced yet another moment of magic to put Argentina in front, though, bending a brilliant free-kick into the top-right corner after 33 minutes.

    An unmarked Martinez spurned a glorious chance to add a second when he scuffed a shot wide and Lionel Scaloni's side were made to pay for their profligacy when Chile levelled 12 minutes into the second half.

    Vidal was awarded a spot-kick for a rash challenge from Nicolas Tagliafico after referee Wilmar Roldan checked the pitchside monitor and although the midfielder's penalty was brilliantly tipped against the crossbar by Martinez, Vargas nodded in following up.

    Bravo palmed away Messi's drive 20 minutes from time and Gonzalez headed over the bar when his skipper presented him with another golden opportunity in a frustrating start for Argentina.

  • Luis Enrique and Spain players back struggling Morata after boos in Euro 2020 stalemate Luis Enrique and Spain players back struggling Morata after boos in Euro 2020 stalemate

    Spain head coach Luis Enrique and his players leapt to the defence of Alvaro Morata after he was booed in their frustrating 0-0 draw with Sweden at Euro 2020.

    Morata squandered Spain's best chance of their Euro 2020 Group E opener when he fired wide with just Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen to beat on Monday.

    Spain had dominated the match in Seville as they made 917 passes and enjoyed 85 possession, but lacked a cutting edge in attack.

    Morata was even subjected to boos and whistles by a section of Spain supporters, having failed to register any of his three attempts on target before he was substituted in the 66th minute.

    "He has the personality to endure it and I would more like [him] to be applauded," Luis Enrique told a post-match media conference. 

    "Morata is a great player who does things well in attack and defence.

    "I have heard the whistles for Morata but then he was applauded off. He does a lot for the team and he is used to these situations so I do not think it will affect him."

    Spain midfielders Marcos Llorente and Pedri also backed Morata, who has not scored in his last four international matches, to come good.

    "Today he was not lucky in the face of goal, but he will be," Llorente said.

    "I don't think the whistles are good. Anyone who was inside would like to be supported and applauded.

    "We've got two group games left and the support of our fans is a great help."

    Pedri added: "We can all fail, we all do. He [Morata] works a lot for the team and that can be seen on the field. He needs support. I tell people to keep trusting us, we are a great team.

    "We created so many chances that I'm sure the goals are coming. I know there will now be good video analysis to see why it is we didn't score."

    Luis Enrique felt the playing surface at Seville's La Cartuja stadium hampered his players in front of goal.

    He said: "What we try to do is to generate scoring chances, the field was not helping much. If you haven't noticed the players have complained. 

    "We have generated chances, we haven't scored them."

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