Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Louzada, Rockets, Porzingis

Pelicans 2019 draft selections Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes have disappointed during their NBA tenures thus far, opines Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Clark argues that reduced roles for Alexander-Walker and Hayes have been a factor in the team’s 11-10 record across its last 21 contests. Alexander-Walker is no longer starting for New Orleans, and Hayes is effectively out of the team’s rotation.

Clark writes that 6’6″ shooting guard Alexander-Walker, drafted with the No. 17 pick out of Virginia Tech, struggles to make the proper choices with the ball, while consistent motivation appears to be an issue for 6’11” center Hayes, the eighth pick out of Texas. The Pelicans could theoretically offer both players contract extensions during the summer of 2022, but that appears unlikely given their play.

There’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans small forward Didi Louzada has officially been available to play since earlier this week for New Orleans after returning from a 25-game suspension, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). Louzada was suspended in November for violating the NBA anti-drug policy. Louzada has yet to play since being reactivated.
  • The rebuilding Rockets offer plenty of promise, but have yet to string together much consistency on the court and have a 12-32 record so far. Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic take stock of the team’s player development this season. Young point guard Kevin Porter Jr. has struggled to mesh with rookie shooting guard Jalen Green, as both Vecenie considers both to be score-first players. The floor spacing provided by shooting guards Garrison Mathews and Armoni Brooks helped the team during an injury absence for Green.
  • The solid return of Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis from a stint in the COVID-19 protocols should encourage Dallas fans, writes Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. The big man notched 19 points and seven boards during a 108-92 Dallas victory over the Magic on Saturday night. “I didn’t want to force anything too much,” Porzingis said of his return to game action. “First game back, lungs are going to feel it a little bit.”

COVID-19 Updates: Vogel, Lue, Pelicans, Raptors, Pokusevski

One Los Angeles team is getting its head coach out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols today, while the other has placed their coach in the protocols.

The Lakers got the good news, as Frank Vogel has cleared the protocols and will be back on the sidelines for the team on Friday night vs. Portland, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). David Fizdale will return to his role as Vogel’s lead assistant after serving as the acting head coach for the last 12 days.

Meanwhile, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has entered the protocols, according to an announcement from the team. Lue, the 10th head coach to be affected by the protocols this month, will be replaced in the short term by assistant Brian Shaw.

Here are more protocol-related updates from across the NBA:

  • The Pelicans got Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Naji Marshall, and Jose Alvarado back at practice today following their respective stints in the COVID-19 protocols, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com. New Orleans isn’t entirely out of the woods though — center Jonas Valanciunas has entered the protocols, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • According to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Raptors rookie Justin Champagnie has exited the protocols, leaving Isaac Bonga as the only player from the team’s standard roster still affected. However, one of Toronto’s replacement players – D.J. Wilson – has now entered the protocols, Murphy notes.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski is no longer in the protocols and will be available for Friday’s contest vs. the Knicks, says Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).

Nickeil Alexander-Walker Becomes First Pelican To Enter Protocols

Third-year guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, becoming the first Pelicans player to do so this season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Assuming Alexander-Walker registered a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, he’ll remain in the protocols for 10 days or until he can return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Alexander-Walker has struggled with his shot this season, making just 37.2% of his attempts from the floor (including 31.9% of his threes) through 32 games. However, the 23-year-old is coming off perhaps his best game of the season, so the timing of his entry into the protocols is unfortunate — he scored 27 points in 26 minutes on 10-of-16 shooting on Tuesday in a win over Portland.

New Orleans had been just one of eight teams without a player in the protocols. The Rockets, Pacers, Thunder, Suns, Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Jazz make up the rest of that group.

Several times this month, we’ve seen one positive test lead to a flurry of additional positives, so it’s possible Alexander-Walker won’t be the last Pelican to be affected — hopefully the team can avoid an outbreak.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Ingram, Alexander-Walker, Young

The Pelicans currently have a 1-11 record, worst in the NBA. They’ve lost eight games in a row. David Griffin, the team’s executive VP of basketball operations, is reportedly on the hot seat.  All-Star Zion Williamson has yet to play a game following foot surgery. Fellow former All-Star Brandon Ingram is out for the seventh consecutive game with a hip contusion, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link).

Coach Willie Green said Ingram could return soon following a full practice yesterday, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). Obviously, that won’t happen tonight.

Needless to say, things are not going well in New Orleans.

According to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, Griffin has done a poor job building the roster around Zion and Ingram. Kushner says the team’s first-round draft picks under Griffin (aside from Zion) haven’t proven to be reliable rotation players, let alone pieces to build around. He didn’t list them by name, but he was referring to Jaxson Hayes (8th), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17th), Kira Lewis (13th), and rookie Trey Murphy (17th).

Kusher notes that despite modest expectation from fans, the team is failing to deliver an interesting, competitive product that has a clear direction, and that falls squarely on Griffin.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Alexander-Walker has been heavily scrutinized for a slow start to the season, but he was one of the silver linings of the Pelicans‘ loss to the Thunder on Wednesday, scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter. Will Guillory of The Athletic opines that keeping Alexander-Walker in attack-mode is one of the keys for the Pelicans to turn their losing streak around. Guillory also believes the team needs to shorten the rotation and keep believing in each other.
  • Despite being in-and-out of the lineup, Thaddeus Young‘s professionalism and workman-like mentality have rubbed off on the young Spurs. He’s also been highly productive in his limited minutes. Young is a free agent at the end of the season and is viewed as a valuable trade chip. He knows he may not last the entire season with the team, but that hasn’t impacted his mindset, writes Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. “I am not sure what is going to happen with me, whether I will be here next year or if I will be here past the trade deadline,” Young said. “But, at the end of the day, at this point in time, this moment, I am here, I am a San Antonio Spur and I am planning on giving 120 percent each night.”
  • Check out our Pelicans and Spurs team pages for the most recent notes and rumors on the two teams.

Southwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, Brooks, Wood, Poeltl

Like many of his teammates, Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has struggled out of the gate this fall, prompting Christian Clark of NOLA.com to take a look at his season thus far. The 1-10 Pelicans currently have the NBA’s worst record, and while a lot of that is a result of the extended absences of All-Star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, Alexander-Walker’s slow start certainly hasn’t helped.

Clark notes that Alexander-Walker has been one of the worst volume shooters in the league, connecting on 35.5% of his 15.4 field goal attempts a game, including 25.3% on his 7.9 three-point looks. Among players attempting at least 10 field goals per night, he currently ranks 114th out of 117 in true shooting percentage. Clark wonders if Alexander-Walker, and the Pelicans, would be better served by correcting the 6’6″ shooting guard’s shot profile (he shoots more from long-range than from within the arc) and attempting more shots inside the paint and fewer from the three-point arc.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With stalwart Grizzlies swingman Dillon Brooks poised to return to the hardwood for Memphis for the first time since the 2021 playoffs, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian takes a look at how Brooks could spruce up the club’s defense. Brooks has been absent for the entire 2021/22 season to this point with a left hand fracture.
  • Though Rockets power forward Christian Wood seems to be irked about the club’s clear desire to tank in the short-term, he has made a point to express publicly that he wants to stick around, per Rahat Huq of The Houston Chronicle“I’m here to stay in Houston through the good and bad,” Wood tweeted this week.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has revealed that he does not expect center Jakob Poeltl to return from the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols this week, per Tom Orsborne of the San Antonio Express-News“I am not exactly sure” of the big man’s timetable, Popovich said. “They tell me every day, but I’m not a scientist. I listen to what they say, but I know he is not going to be ready for tomorrow or Friday.”

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Alexander-Walker, Hayes, Jones

Zion Williamson‘s weight and conditioning are receiving increased scrutiny as his recovery from offseason foot surgery drags on, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com, who notes that multiple members of the national media have focused on the issue this week.

In a Substack article about the Pelicans star, veteran reporter Marc Stein suggested that Williamson has to be a “more active participant in his own recovery” and must find a way to better manage his weight. Former teammate J.J. Redick, now an analyst for ESPN, stated that Zion “has to be in better shape.” TNT’s television studio analysts also weighed in on the subject on Tuesday, with Charles Barkley joking that recent video of Williamson working out “looked like me and Shaq had a baby.”

Pelicans fans can’t be thrilled that Williamson continues to battle health problems as Ja Morant continues to emerge as one of the league’s brightest young stars in Memphis, but it’s revision history to suggest New Orleans should’ve drafted Morant over Zion with the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, Stein notes. According to Stein, he recently asked executives from 10 different teams about that choice and only one said he might’ve been willing to take Morant first overall two years ago — and even that exec acknowledged that team ownership probably wouldn’t have signed off.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • The 1-8 Pelicans can reasonably expect to be better once Williamson and Brandon Ingram (hip) are back on the court, but it’s a discouraging sign that other young breakout candidates – such as Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes – are off to underwhelming starts this season, writes William Guillory of The Athletic.
  • Hayes, who is typically the backup center behind Jonas Valanciunas, was replaced on the depth chart by Willy Hernangomez in Wednesday’s game, Clark writes for NOLA.com. Hayes only logged four minutes and didn’t play in the second half. It’s unclear if that was just a one-game change or if Hernangomez could see more action going forward, says Clark.
  • Pelicans rookie Herb Jones was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol on Wednesday after sustaining a concussion in Tuesday’s game vs. Phoenix, the team announced in a press release. He’ll have to show he’s symptom-free before being cleared to return.

Pelicans Exercise Options For Williamson, Alexander-Walker, Hayes, Lewis

The Pelicans have picked up rookie-scale options on four players, including Zion Williamson, the top overall pick in 2019, the team announced in a press release. New Orleans exercised the fourth-year option for Williamson, guaranteeing his $13.5MM salary for the 2022/23 season.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2022/23 Rookie Scale Options]

It’s a routine move that sets the stage for next summer, when Williamson will be eligible for an extension that could tie him to the franchise for an additional five seasons. Although those offers are nearly always accepted, there have been rumblings that Williamson might consider turning it down because of pressure from family members to play elsewhere and an uneasy relationship with head of basketball operations David Griffin.

The Pelicans also exercised fourth-year options on guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker ($5MM) and center Jaxson Hayes ($6.8MM). Point guard Kira Lewis had his third-season option picked up, which will pay him $4MM for 2022/23.

Pelicans Notes: Hayes, Alexander-Walker, Valanciunas, Rotation Battles

Pelicans coach Willie Green seems to envision an expanded role for third-year center Jaxson Hayes.

I think Jaxson is going to be huge for us this season,” Green said, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

Hayes has been in and out of the Pelicans’ rotation the past two seasons, showcasing rare athleticism for a big man, but questionable decision making. Clark notes that Hayes added muscle over the offseason, bulking up to 235 pounds from his listed weight of 220 last season. He’s also been working on his jump shot, and Clark says teammate Nickeil Alexander-Walker has taken notice.

It’s amazing how fast he is and how fast he gets up and down the floor,” Alexander-Walker said of Hayes. “Athletic. Shooting the ball really well. Added that to his game.

Clark adds that in an effort to put his legal troubles behind him, Hayes has been spending more time with family. His father, Jonathan, an ex-NFL player and coach, has temporarily moved in with Jaxson to provide stability and guidance.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Alexander-Walker has matured his game in multiple ways this offseason, writes William Guillory of The Athletic in an excellent interview feature. Alexander-Walker says he’s changed his mental approach to cope with the ups and downs of life in the NBA: “You have to take everything and break it down. You’ve got to take it day-by-day. I got in trouble when I was trying to fast-forward my way through the process. It’s easy to get caught in that tornado, and you don’t know where it’s going to take you. But I had to learn about staying in the moment. Not getting caught up in anything that’s not about where are we right now. Beating yourself up over a bad shooting night isn’t how you get better. It’s about staying consistent in your process regardless of what comes at you.
  • Likely starting center Jonas Valanciunas has looked engaged thus far in the preseason, Clark writes in another piece. Clark notes the Pelicans lacked a mean streak and veteran leadership last season, and believes Valanciunas could help fill that void.
  • Guillory explored the team’s depth chart battles in another recent article. He believes that a supersized starting lineup of Alexander-Walker, Trey Murphy, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and Valanciunas could be the team’s best bet for a combination of offense and defense, but thinks that offseason addition Devonte’ Graham will ultimately start alongside Alexander-Walker. He also thinks that Kira Lewis should have the upper hand over Tomas Satoransky for backup point guard duty, although admits that it could change from game to game. Hayes suffered a sprained ankle on Monday, according to Guillory, who believes that if Hayes is unavailable for the regular season opener, rookie Herb Jones will act as backup center due to his strong defensive play.

Rosters Announced For Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

Four qualifying tournaments to determine the final four teams in the men’s basketball pool at the Tokyo Olympics are set to tip off on Tuesday. In advance of the Olympic qualifiers, the 24 teams involved have officially set their 12-man rosters, according to a press release from FIBA.

More than two dozen current NBA players are participating in the tournament, and 11 of the 24 teams competing for Olympic spots have at least one current NBA players on their respective rosters. Of those clubs, Team Canada has the biggest contingent of NBA players — eight of the 12 players on Nick Nurse‘s squad finished the season on an NBA roster. Turkey is next with four NBA players.

The four qualifying tournaments will take place in Serbia, Lithuania, Croatia, and Canada. Only the winner of each six-team group will advance to Tokyo. Those four winners will join Japan, Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, France, Spain, Australia, and the U.S. in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

The teams that move onto the Olympics may tweak their rosters for Tokyo, depending on the availability of certain players. For instance, if Greece were to win its qualifying tournament, perhaps Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo – who remains active in the playoffs for now – would make an effort to join the team in Tokyo next month.

Here are the NBA players on the OQT rosters:

Belgrade, Serbia

Kaunas, Lithuania

Split, Croatia

Victoria, Canada

There are also many former NBA players among the 24 rosters, including Mario Hezonja (Croatia), Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Jan Vesely (Czech Republic), Timofey Mozgov (Russia), and Anthony Bennett (Canada).

To view the full rosters, be sure to visit FIBA’s official site and click through to each team from there.

Pelicans Notes: Van Gundy, Griffin, Williamson, Weatherspoon, Vinson, Lottery

Pelicans officials determined that Stan Van Gundy’s style was not a match for the team’s young core and that contributed to the decision to fire the veteran head coach after just one season, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin wanted Van Gundy to give more playing time to first-round picks Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis, and Jaxson Hayes, but Van Gundy was more comfortable with veterans such as Eric Bledsoe, Fischer continues.

Parting ways with Van Gundy was also a means of currying favor with Zion Williamson, Fischer adds. Griffin had urged Van Gundy to make Williamson more of a lead ball-handler in the team’s offensive scheme.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • While assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon has been rumored to be a potential replacement for Van Gundy, Griffin downplayed that possibility, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Griffin said her candidacy is “premature” and that people may have read too much into her being named the team’s Summer League coach, Guillory adds.
  • On the other hand, assistant Fred Vinson will get serious consideration for a promotion, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Vinson has been with the organization since 2010.
  • The Pelicans hit the jackpot when they won the 2019 lottery and selected Williamson. They’re hoping lightning strikes twice, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes.  The Pelicans enter next Tuesday’s drawing with a 4.5% chance of getting the top pick and a 20.3% chance of moving into the top four.
  • Getting rid of Van Gundy so quickly isn’t a good look for Griffin, Jeff Duncan of The Athletic writes. Next season will be pivotal for the franchise and they need to hit a home run with their next coaching hire to help convince Williamson to sign a long-term extension next summer. Zion didn’t demand Van Gundy’s ouster, Scott Kushner of the Times Picayune reports, but New Orleans’ franchise player has often expressed dissatisfaction and frustration with the team’s inability to be a consistent winner. Making a coaching change now is a way of excising the possibility of Williamson becoming discontented with the franchise.