Northwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, Edwards, Nuggets, Hardy

Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker was an overlooked piece in last month’s three-team blockbuster that sent D’Angelo Russell to Los Angeles and Mike Conley to Minnesota, but the former first-round pick believes he has benefited from the change of scenery he got as a result of that deal, according to Michael Grange of

“I feel blessed to be in this organization,” Alexander-Walker said on Saturday. “I know what my role is and I’m getting a chance to play through mistakes, help my team by making winning plays. The way the West is, every game matters and it’s a great chance to grow as a player and person.”

As Grange observes, Alexander-Walker hasn’t been given a chance so far in his NBA career to establish any real continuity. The fourth-year guard is already playing for his third team and his sixth head coach since entering the NBA in 2019. He’ll be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, so it’s possible he’ll be playing for yet another team and coach later this year. But the Timberwolves have been impressed with what they’ve seen from the 24-year-old so far, according to head coach Chris Finch.

“We’ve been very pleased with Nickeil. We like him a lot,” Finch said. “Offensively he’s got a versatile game that we like. Defensively he’s really grown, as you would expect. That’s where I’ve seen the most growth since his rookie year, which is natural, but he enjoys defense, he takes the challenge. He’s got really good size, he’s very smart and now he’s putting the pieces together, like understanding game plan and his opponent’s tendencies and stuff like that.

“It’s crazy when you think that Nickeil has played for six coaches in four years,” Finch continued. “So he just needs to be able to be out there. We’ll put our arms around him and keep encouraging him and I think he’s going to be a really good player in this league.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards is already out of his walking boot and is moving around more after spraining his right ankle on Friday, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The swelling in Edwards’ ankle has also gone down, Charania adds. Edwards missed Saturday’s loss to Toronto, but is expected to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis going forward, so it’s possible his absence won’t last much longer.
  • Denver has now lost five of its last six games, prompting star center Nikola Jokic to acknowledge that the Nuggets “need to be concerned” about their recent slide, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. As Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports writes, it’s not unusual for top NBA teams to let their foot off the gas late in the season, but the Nuggets will need to rediscover their mojo soon rather than counting on flipping a switch once the postseason begins.
  • Jazz players have appreciated Will Hardy‘s willingness to listen to their ideas and implement them if he finds merit in them, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News, who notes that Lauri Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk helped convince the first-year head coach to introduce more zone looks on defense. “I think he’s someone who you can approach and he’ll really take your suggestions into consideration,” Olynyk said. “You know, sometimes you go to a restaurant and you see a suggestion box and you never really know if those get read, but he’ll read every one of them. Gotta love it.”
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