Alex Abrines

And-Ones: NBL, Abrines, Africa, NBA Finals

Top 2020 draft prospect R.J. Hampton confirmed today that he’ll pass on the opportunity to play college basketball, heading overseas instead to join the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. While it’s not the first time an elite prospect has bypassed college, just about every player who has done so in the past has had eligibility concerns — Hampton doesn’t.

In a follow-up story on Hampton’s decision, Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com (Insider link) explores the potential upsides and downsides of the youngster’s new path, and examines whether there are other candidates to follow suit.

Outside of perhaps LaMelo Ball, Givony doesn’t expect any other one-and-done candidates to head to the NBL for the 2019/20 season, but he notes that potential fallout from ongoing NCAA corruption investigations could change that. If certain programs are hit by sanctions or head coaching firings, that may cause top prospects to rethink their plans for next season, and the NBL could look to recruit those players.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Before he joined the Thunder in 2016, swingman Alex Abrines played for Barcelona for several seasons. Now, according to a report from Barcelona-based L’Esportiu Catalunya (via Sportando), the Spanish club has interest in bringing him back. Abrines parted ways with Oklahoma City this season for personal reasons, so it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to return to action – whether in the NBA or EuroLeague – for the 2019/20 campaign.
  • Amadou Gallo Fall, the NBA’s vice president and managing director for Africa, has been named the president of the new Basketball Africa League, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The new 12-team African league is on track to begin play in 2020.
  • Besides featuring a new matchup for the first time since 2014, this year’s NBA Finals will also have a significant ripple effect on the upcoming NBA offseason, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. As Reynolds observes, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard will all be free agents this summer, and it’s not inconceivable that their decisions will be affected by what happens in the series.

Thunder Notes: George, Abrines, Matthews, Donovan

Thunder All-Star forward Paul George will soon have his right shoulder re-evaluated by a specialist, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman reports. GM Sam Presti told the media during his annual post-season press conference that George will see a specialist outside of Oklahoma City but Thunder staff members will be present.

George saw action in 77 regular-season games but took four games off to rest his aching shoulder. He was effective in the playoffs despite the discomfort, posting averages on 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG during the Thunder’s 4-1 opening-round series loss to Portland. Presti declared that George “was at no risk of any type of future injury” this season and labelled the possibility of George undergoing surgery as “speculation.”

We have more from Presti’s press conference:

  • He took the blame for not having enough sharpshooting wings on the roster, Lee notes in a separate story. Presti thought Alex Abrines would have a “breakout year” but the swingman missed 17 games for personal reasons and was ultimately waived. The Thunder pursued Wesley Matthews after the Knicks bought him out and waived him but Matthews chose Indiana. “Once Wes Matthews went to Indiana there really wasn’t a lot of other options out there, and that put some stress on us offensively, and you never want to be in that position,” he said.
  • Billy Donovan is expected to return as head coach despite the latest postseason flameout. Presti said he has yet to meet with Donovan on the subject because he wanted to give his coach more time to “reflect and decompress,” Brett Dawson of The Athletic tweets. “I do think getting his perspective on things is important because there’s nobody that works harder than him,” Presti said. “If anything, I think he needs to take some time to think through the season himself and have a really good conversation.

Thunder Notes: Ferguson, Felton, Abrines

Despite Andre Roberson missing the entire season to this point, the Thunder have continued to thrive as Paul George has developed into a serious MVP candidate and other role players have stepped up in their respective roles. The main example of such improvement is Terrance Ferguson, who has maintained his hold on a starting role past the halfway point of the season.

As Maddie Lee details for The Oklahoman, the Thunder put the ball in Ferguson’s hands more during Summer League, which he believes has translated to his improvement and confidence so far this season.

While his statistics suffered during the Summer League experiment, Ferguson is finding open teammates more often and is playing with a confidence that has unlocked more components of his game.

There’s more for the Thunder:

Thunder Waive Alex Abrines

7:34pm: Abrines agreed to give back almost all of the $1.8MM he was still owed, according to Charania (Twitter link), who adds that he and the team “parted ways amicably.”

4:20pm: Oklahoma City has placed Alex Abrines on waivers, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Thunder will still be responsible for the remainder of his $5,455,236 salary, which will continue to count against the team’s cap.

The third-year guard has appeared in just 31 games this season, averaging 5.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 19 minutes per night. Abrines was a second-round draft choice in 2013, but didn’t come to the NBA until three years later.

The 25-year-old has only appeared in two games over the past six weeks and is dealing with an undisclosed personal situation, according to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Abrines and team officials came to a mutual decision that he needed time away from basketball to work on those issues, adds ESPN’s Royce Young.

“He’s still battling through some things and wasn’t able to be here tonight,” coach Billy Donovan said after Tuesday’s game. “Honestly, we go day-by-day with him and continue to be supportive with him. He’s around the team, we always talk and communicate.”

The Thunder were already one player short of the roster minimum of 14 after the deadline, so OKC will have to make at least two additions. They will have two weeks from today to replace Abrines.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Exum, Wittman, Abrines

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and members of the organization are furious over his All-Star snub. Gobert told Aaron Falk of the team’s website and other media members that he can’t understand how coaches can preach defense and then leave him off their ballots. “It’s disrespectful not only toward me but toward the team, the organization and toward the game,” said Gobert, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Jazz coach Quin Snyder echoed Gobert’s gripe, ESPN’s Tim McMahon tweets. “We talk about defense being valued, but when we have a chance to reward it, we reward scoring again and again.” Jazz president Steve Starks tweeted that there should be more transparency in the voting. The coaches select the reserves. “Complete nonsense and we need more integrity and accountability. If the coaches vote than their ballots should be made public.”

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Reserve Jazz guard Dante Exum will not return to action until sometime after the All-Star break, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News reports. Exum hasn’t played since suffering a left ankle sprain against Detroit on January 5th. He has been participating in on-court work but won’t even be re-evaluated until after the break. Exum signed a three-year, $33MM contract last summer.
  • The Timberwolves have hired former head coach Randy Wittman as an advisor to first-year coach Ryan Saunders, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Saunders was on the Wizards’ staff when Wittman was the head coach there. “He’s an ear for me,” Saunders told Hine. “Another basketball mind to bounce things off of. I’m comfortable with him, known him for a long time.”
  • Thunder shooting guard Alex Abrines has returned to action but he’ll have to work his way back into the rotation, according to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Abrines played six minutes against Orlando on Tuesday after missing 17 games due to an illness and a personal matter. During his absence, Abdel Nader seized a rotation spot. Abrines will have battle Nader and Terrance Ferguson for minutes.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets’ D, Rose, Thunder

Despite scoring being at a near-all-time high early on this NBA season, one team has still been able to hold every one of its opponents to less than 100 points in each game played thus far – the Nuggets.  And while one may not think of the up-and-coming Nuggets as a defensive juggernaut just yet, head coach Michael Malone is a defensive guy at his core, writes Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com.

Yes, it’s awfully early to make any long lasting conclusions about a team’s defensive prowess this season, but Malone is excited about the potential for this year’s team to be one of the best defensive teams to come along in Denver in a while. This is the defense I dream about,” Malone said. “Ever since I got here.”

Asked why exactly it is his team is playing so well on the defensive side of the ball so far during the 2018/19 campaign, Malone lauded his team’s effort and want-to. “I would say just an overall buy-in and commitment. You can talk game plan and you can talk strategy but at the end of the day, for me, defense comes down to pride. Do you want to go out there and give it everything you have to defend?

Additionally, Dempsey opines that adding defensive-minded players like Torrey Craig, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee has helped the mentality around the team morph into a more defensive-oriented group.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves’ head coach Tom Thibodeau evidently thinks backup guard Derrick Rose still has a lot of gas left in the tank, despite a bevy of evidence to the contrary, telling Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press that “as long as (Rose is) healthy, he’ll be one of the best players in the league.”
  • The Thunder, praised as one of the best teams in the deep Western Conference to begin the season, have gotten off to a rocky, 0-3 start. Yet, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes, there exists reason for optimism, with rookie Hamidou Diallo and newcomer Nerlens Noel both providing a spark off the bench in Sunday’s loss to the lowly Kings.
  • In other Thunder news, Brett Dawson of The Athletic is reporting that guard Alex Abrines, who left Sunday’s game in the first half with a mouth contusion, and who will compete for Diallo and Terrance Ferguson for minutes until the return of Andre Roberson, is not expected to miss any additional time.

Northwest Notes: Roberson, Ingles, Timberwolves

With Andre Roberson now out until at least December, the Thunder won’t rush into the free agency market to find a replacement, according to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Coach Billy Donovan plans to give closer evaluation to players who have either been injured or haven’t been used in prominent roles during training camp, such as Abdel Nader, Alex Abrines and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

“That’s something [general manager] Sam [Presti] and I will probably talk about together with [assistant GM] Troy [Weaver], the three of us would,” Donovan said, “but right now having the number of players that we have on the roster for training camp, there’s enough.”

Oklahoma City has 14 players with guaranteed contracts, so a roster spot is available if the team opts for the free agent route. The Thunder are well over the luxury tax line with a team salary in excess of $145MM, but they cut their tax bill by about $20MM by waiving and stretching Kyle Singler. OKC has its entire $5.6MM taxpayer mid-level exception available.

There’s more tonight from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t willing to brush aside his team’s slow starts as a product of the preseason, relays Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Minnesota’s first unit fell behind 34-22 in Wednesday’s game against the Clippers and 31-20 after one quarter Friday against the Thunder. “You can fall into a trap thinking it’s preseason, we’ll get it, we’ll get it,” Thibodeau said. “That fact of the matter is, we open in 12 days. So the urgency has to be there.” Part of the problem, of course, is that the Wolves are missing a key member of their starting five as Jimmy Butler has remained in limbo since issuing his trade request.
  • Jazz forward Joe Ingles believes he’s among the league’s best shooters, relays Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. He has the statistics to back up that statement, shooting 44% from 3-point range over the past two seasons. “The numbers I’ve shot, the percentages, they obviously are what they are and people are going to dissect everything,” Ingles said, “but, I honestly feel like they’re all going to go in when I shoot the ball.”
  • The Timberwolves have announced a few promotions, naming Todd Checovich as scout/GM for the G League Iowa Wolves, Nick Restifo as senior basketball operations analyst and Troy Sutton as head strength and conditioning coach.

Northwest Notes: Deng, Abrines, Hernangomez

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau defended the signing of forward Luol Deng, saying the veteran forward can help his team in a number of ways, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com reports. “He’s only 33,” the Wolves coach said. “He takes great care of himself. He knows how to prepare for the season. For us, the fact that he can play [multiple spots] and he’s a veteran, it’s a long season, you like to have players like that. And he’s familiar with what we want to do.” Deng signed a one-year, $2.4MM contract with the Timberwolves after reaching a buyout agreement with the Lakers and clearing waivers. Thibodeau has taken criticism for being too partial to ex-Bulls players but he shrugs it off, as told Aschburner. “Whether a guy has played for me before or in a system where (GM) Scott (Layden) had been before or maybe where one of our assistants had been, if you feel like you know a player well and he fits into your system, then why not do it?,” Thibodeau said. “To me, I don’t really care what other people think. I care about what we think.”

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Deng gave up $7.5MM over the next two seasons in his buyout with Lakers, including $3.6MM that was allocated to the upcoming season, salary cap expert Albert Nahmad tweets. He’ll recoup two-thirds of the latter giveback with his Wolves contract, meaning he’ll receive a total of $16.7MM for the season, Nahmad adds.
  • Alex Abrines is just entering his prime at 25 years old and the Thunder swingman could be in line for an expanded role, Nick Gallo of the team’s website writes. Abrines averaged 15.1 MPG in 75 regular-season appearances last season could see some crunch-time minutes this season, Gallo adds. “You can focus on certain points of your game. (I’ll) especially keep improving on defense and then just develop my offensive game,” Abrines said. “Not just being a shooter, trying to put the ball on the floor, playing some big roles and being able to create for my teammates.”
  • Nuggets forward Juan Hernangomez could enjoy a bounce-back season, Christopher Dempsey of the Nuggets’ website opines. Hernangomez appeared in just 25 games last season after seeing action in 62 games the previous campaign, in part due to a bout with mononucleosis, Dempsey notes. Hernangomez could play a bigger role off the bench this season because of his long-range shooting and hustle, Dempsey adds.

And-Ones: Long, LiAngelo Ball, Spain

Ex-Sixers forward Shawn Long has signed a contract with New Zealand Breakers, according to a Sportando report. Long played 18 games with Philadelphia in 2016/2017, averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 13 MPG. He toiled in the G League last season with the Delaware 87ers, averaging 14.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG in 33 games following a seven-game stint in China. The Timberwolves took a look at Long during a free agent mini-camp in June.

We have more from around the pro basketball world:

Thunder Notes: Roberson, Brewer, Abrines, Ferguson

Andre Roberson has been a consistent rock for the Thunder on defense and once he went down with a season-ending injury in January, his value to Oklahoma City was accentuated, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes.

“I know a lot of people across the world, even you guys doubted Andre many, many times about his shooting and all that stuff,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “But to me, man, the type of guy he is, the things he brings to the game is a huge, huge impact on our team and what he brings to the table. I never take anything he does for granted because of the way he lays it out on the line.”

As Horne points out, Oklahoma City’s defensive rating was fifth in the NBA at 103.1 with a healthy Roberson and dropped all the way to 15th (107) in 33 games without him.

Check out more notes on the Thunder below:

  • In a separate story, Horne writes about veteran Corey Brewer, who came over to the Thunder from the Lakers and contributed on both ends of the floor. The Thunder will have other things to take care of this offseason, namely Paul George‘s free agency, but Brewer’s short stint at the least warranted a second look. “It was good for me to have a chance to play, to get to show everybody I can still play, just coming in here to try to help the team as best I could,” Brewer said
  • While improving his game is a priority, Alex Abrines most important goal this offseason is marrying his fiance, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details. Then, his focus will turn to improving his defense and maintaining his offense, which was strong but did slip numbers wise. “I think I can do a better job with that,” Abrines said. “I think it’s just because I couldn’t find my rhythm during the regular season. I had some really good games scoring five threes, and then I’d have stretches not scoring a three in five, six games. So I think I’ve got to work on that and just be more conscious.”
  • Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman also writes about Terrance Ferguson, the Thunder’s 20-year-old guard who had an up-and-down rookie season. He appeared in 61 games while averaging 3.1 PPG and he hopes to improve on that as a sophomore. “I just want to come back a totally different player,” Ferguson said.