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Oklahoma City Thunder

Northwest Notes: Ezeli, Hayward, Hood, Sabonis

The Trail Blazers may be considering a Disabled Player Exception for Festus Ezeli, according to Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders. Today is the deadline to apply to the league for a DPE, and NBA officials would have to agree that Ezeli’s injury will keep him out for the rest of the season. The 27-year-old center hasn’t played since signing a two-year, $15MM deal with Portland over the summer. He had offseason surgery on his left knee, but wasn’t able to do more than a couple of practices before it started hurting again. Ezeli said last month that another operation, which would sideline him for the rest of the season, might be necessary to save his career. If the DPE is approved, the Blazers would be granted half of Ezeli’s cap hit to sign a free agent or to use in a trade.

There’s more this morning from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz star Gordon Hayward might be tempted to reunite with former college coach Brad Stevens in Boston, but Utah will be able to make a substantially better offer when he becomes a free agent this summer, writes Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. The Jazz can offer Hayward a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $180MM, while other teams will be limited to $132MM over four seasons. Another option for Hayward is to sign with Utah for one year and hope to make the All-NBA team, which would make him eligible for the new Designated Veteran Player status and a $235MM deal over six seasons. Hollis thinks the Jazz can improve their chances with Hayward by re-signing George Hill, who has become an effective complement to Hayward.
  • Rodney Hood will be re-evaluated today after suffering a hyperextended right knee late in Saturday’s game, the Jazz tweeted. He had to be helped off the court after the knee buckled on a drive to the basket. “Hopefully it’s not serious,” coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s serious enough that he had to leave the game, but we don’t know when he’ll be back.”
  • The Thunder are urging rookie forward Domantas Sabonis to shoot fewer 3-pointers, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. That was the plan even before a recent shooting slump in which he has missed 18 of his last 19 shots from long distance. “What I don’t want to see him just become is just a stretch four, a guy that’s just shooting 3s,” said coach Billy Donovan. “We’ve got to be able to utilize his ability to handle the ball and pass, his ability to play with his back to the basket. And certainly face up and shoot the basketball when it’s there.”

Payne's Return Shakes Up OKC Roster

Though he’s played sparingly for the Thunder since making his return, the addition of Cameron Payne has made head coach Billy Donovan‘s job setting each game’s active lineup that much harder. With Payne in the mix, players like Kyle Singler and Semaj Christon have been inactive, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.

Horne relays that Thunder coaches generally decide close to the morning shootaround which of their players will be inactive for the upcoming game. In some scenarios, as was recently the case with Victor Oladipo, those decisions are delayed until later in the day to accommodate for the fluctuating status of injured players.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 1/12/17

  • The Jazz recalled guards Alec Burks and Raul Neto from the Salt Lake City Stars and assigned forward Joel Bolomboy to the same team, the team announced in a press release. The guard duo was assigned there on Wednesday to get some playing time against the Grand Rapids Drive and Neto finished one rebound shy of a triple-double. This marks the 10th assignment for Bolomboy.
  • The Knicks recalled forward Maurice Ndour and center Marshall Plumlee from their affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, the team’s PR staff tweets. That duo combined for 24 points and 20 rebounds against the Maine Red Claws after being assigned on Tuesday.
  • The Nets recalled forward Chris McCullough from their Long Island affiliate and he was available against the Pelicans on Thursday night, the team tweets. McCullough poured in 37 points in Long Island’s 138-133 overtime win over the Greensboro Swarm earlier in the day, his 22nd appearance with the D-League club.
  • The Pelicans recalled forward Cheick Diallo, who was also playing for the Long Island Nets, the team’s PR department tweets. He played two games there, averaging 12.0 points in 17.4 minutes after going there on Tuesday under the flexible assignment rule.
  • The Thunder assigned guard Semaj Christon to the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced in a tweet. Christon has appeared in 36 games with the Thunder this season, averaging 3.2 points and 1.4 assists in 15.4 minutes.
  • The Trail Blazers assigned guard Tim Quarterman to the Windy City Bulls under the flex rule, they announced in a press release. The rookie has made 12 brief appearances with the Blazers this season.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 1/7/17

Here are the D-League assignments and recalls from Saturday:


  • The Bulls have recalled forward Bobby Portis from their Windy City affiliate, the team announced in a press release. Portis had 32 points and nine rebounds in Friday’s game.
  • The Spurs have recalled rookie guard Dejounte Murray from their affiliate in Austin, the team posted on its website. Murray is coming off a 25-point performance Friday and is averaging 16.6 points per game in 12 D-League contests. He has played 18 games for San Antonio, getting 5.6 minutes per night.
  • The Pacers have recalled Georges Niang from their Fort Wayne affiliate, according to the team’s website. He connected on five 3-pointers and scored 23 points in his last game for the Mad Ants.


  • The Suns have recalled Derrick Jones Jr., according to a team-issued press release. Jones comes off of his fourth assignment to the club’s D-League affiliate this season.
  • The Lakers have assigned center Ivica Zubac to the D-League, reports Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times via a team press release. Zubac has already played 11 games for the team’s affiliate, averaging 15.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
  • The Nuggets have recalled Juan Hernangomez from their D-League affiliate, the team announced in a press release. Hernangomez appeared in just one game for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.


Reggie Williams Rejoins OKC's D-League Affiliate

  • Recently released by the Pelicans, journeyman forward Reggie Williams has reunited with the Oklahoma City Blue, the D-League affiliate of the Thunder. According to The Oklahoman’s Erik Horne, Williams is expected to play on Saturday.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 1/1/17

Here are Sunday’s D-League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:


  • The Hawks assigned Mike Scott to the Long Island Nets, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Because Atlanta doesn’t have a direct D-League affiliate, he was sent to Long Island through the flexible assignment rule. Scott missed training camp and the start of the regular season with a knee injury, so the Hawks want to get him some playing time. The Nets have games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week. This is Scott’s third D-League assignment this season.
  • The Thunder are hoping to get playing time for Cameron Payne, who was assigned to Oklahoma City Blue today, the team announced on its website. Payne hasn’t played yet this season because of a broken foot.

Northwest Notes: Motiejunas, LaVine, Nurkic, Oladipo

The Timberwolves had planned to work out free agent forward Donatas Motiejunas, but the Pelicans swooped in before that could happen, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Minnesota brought Motiejunas into town, but his agreement with New Orleans stopped a planned meeting and workout session. “His agent cancelled and we never got a chance to sit down with him,” said Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau. The Rockets drafted Motiejunas in 2011 with a pick they acquired from Minnesota. He spent four seasons in Houston before becoming a restricted free agent over the summer.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Wolves guard Zach LaVine has become a candidate for Most Improved Player, contends Shams Charania of The Vertical. The third-year guard has raised his scoring average from 14.0 to 21.1 points per game and has become an important part of what Thibodeau calls the team’s “core three” along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Charania added that owner Glen Taylor plans to commit financially to keeping all three.
  • Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic has vowed to be professional about his reduced role, even though he’s clearly unhappy with the arrangement, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Nurkic started the season’s first 25 games, but even then he didn’t always get starters’ minutes. Nurkic shared time with Nikola Jokic and only once topped 30 minutes in a game. His playing time has been cut even further since the Nuggets got healthier, and he was stuck on the bench for four straight games last week. “For sure it’s tough,” Nurkic said. “I’m 23 years old. I’m not here to sit on the bench. I’m here to play basketball. And it’s a tough decision for me, from a starting spot and 20 minutes to four straight [games of not playing]. … You control what you control, and I let my agent do the rest of the stuff.” The Nuggets have already exercised Nurkic’s option for 2017/18 at nearly $3MM.
  • Victor Oladipo returned to the Thunder lineup Saturday after a nine-game absence, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Oladipo hadn’t played since spraining his right wrist in a December 11th game.

Injury Notes: Stephenson, Payne, Black

Free agent guard Lance Stephenson is ahead of his schedule and could be ready from a groin tear by mid-January, barring a setback, Chris Haynes of reports (on Twitter). The Pelicans waived Stephenson in early November after he suffered the injury. The Pelicans drew criticism at the time for the move, but it seemed like the team would be open to re-signing him when he gets healthy. Stephenson was expected to miss about 10 weeks following his groin surgery in early November, so Haynes’ reports suggests his return is a couple weeks ahead of schedule. Stephenson, who won a roster spot after the preseason, averaged 9.7 points and 4.8 assists in 27 minutes per game in six contests this season.

Here is more from around the league:

  • Cameron Payne has been assigned to the D-League for the next few days to complete his rehab and his unofficial targeted return date is January 7th, Royce Young of reports (on Twitter). Payne has yet to make his 2016/17 debut for the Thunder because of a broken foot.
  • Lakers backup center Tarik Black is available to play, but has not been on the court since mostly recovering from an ankle injury suffered in early December because coach Luke Walton wants to ease him into the rotation, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times relays. Black was was an integral part of the Lakers’ second unit before his injury, as Ganguli points out, so once Black is fully healthy, it would seem reasonable to expect a return to action.

And-Ones: Thunder, CBA, Lee, Smith-Rivera

Although the Thunder have put together a reasonably strong supporting cast around Russell Westbrook, there’s no simple way for the team to add a second star to complement the standout point guard, writes Chris Mannix of The Vertical. According to Mannix, Oklahoma City has received zero indications that Blake Griffin is interested in coming home in free agency next summer, and the team would be hard-pressed to create the cap room for another max player anyway.

Still, with players like Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and Domantas Sabonis locked up on long-term deals, it makes plenty of sense for Westbrook to stick with the Thunder, particularly if the team takes advantage of the designated veteran extension to offer him a five-year pact next summer, Mannix writes.

Here’s more from around the NBA:

  • In an informative piece for The Vertical, former NBA front office executive Bobby Marks takes an in-depth look at how the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement will affect salary and cap situations for teams around the league next summer.
  • Damion Lee, who was one of the Celtics‘ training camp invitees and D-League affiliate players this fall, has torn his ACL and will miss the rest of the season, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. After going undrafted out of Louisville this year, Lee had been averaging 17.8 PPG and 6.3 RPG in 16 games with the Maine Red Claws.
  • Speaking of training camp invitees, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who was in camp with the Bulls this fall, has a new home. As Scott Agness of details, Smith-Rivera was acquired from the D-League player pool by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers‘ NBADL affiliate.

The Silver Lining Of Oladipo's Injury

  • Victor Oladipo remains out of the lineup, but the Thunder are viewing his absence as an opportunity to evaluate the team’s depth, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman passes along. “We’ve found maybe different things that we can do that maybe we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore, to experiment with,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Hopefully when he gets back, his absence has made us better and helped our team grow in a way that we can continue to move in a positive direction.”

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