Nickeil Alexander-Walker

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.

Southwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, KP, Adams, Mavs

Pelicans combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker found ways to improve during his second NBA season, writes Christian Clark of Clark highlights Alexander-Walker’s growth as a ball-handler. The 22-year-old, who may play for Team Canada this summer, averaged an encouraging 19.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.0 APG across the 13 games he started.

Alexander-Walker indicated that extended reps at the NBA level have yielded his growth with the Pelicans. “You start to catch onto things,” he said. “You start to read things and understand what buttons control different things.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis told reporters that the behavior that violated COVID-19 protocols and yielded a $50K league fine was a result of his not understanding the NBA’s stringent new rules as more businesses open across the country during the pandemic, tweets Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “I was honestly a little bit confused (about the protocols), but I made a mistake and I paid for it,” Porzingis said. The Dallas big man, who is vaccinated, visited an indoor L.A.-area club.
  • In trading for and subsequently extending center Steven Adams, the Pelicans were hoping to establish an intense interior presence with their new frontcourt tandem of Adams and All-Star power forward Zion Williamson, writes Christian Clark of That approach did not even yield a top-10 finish in the West this season, prompting Clark to wonder if New Orleans head of basketball operations David Griffin will attempt to move on from Adams.
  • Though the Mavericks won both the first two games of their first-round matchup against the Clippers on the road, the team is looking to improve from a lackluster free-throw shooting performance, writes Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “It’s an area where we can gain ground,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. The Mavericks connected on just 66% of their foul shots during the first two games of the series, down from 77.8% during the regular season. Swingman Tim Hardaway Jr., an unrestricted free agent this summer whom Dallas hopes to retain, has shot just 4-of-8 from the charity stripe.

14 NBA Players On Canada’s Preliminary Olympic Qualifying Roster

Team Canada has yet to secure a place in the men’s basketball event at the Tokyo Olympics, but the club should have a loaded roster as it looks to lock up a spot in a qualifying tournament next month.

Canada Basketball issued a press release today announcing its 21-player preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifier, and the group includes 14 players who finished the season on NBA contracts. Here’s the full list:

Of the seven players who didn’t play in the NBA this season, one (Bennett) is a former first overall pick, another (Nicholson) was also a first-round selection, and a third (Alexander) has NBA experience. Bell-Haynes has played in the G League, while Doornekamp, Ejim, and Nembhard all have extensive experience representing Canada in past international competitions.

Still, a few noteworthy names are missing from the list. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be able to participate. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is also dealing with an injury, announcing on Instagram that rehabbing the plantar fasciitis in his right foot will prevent him from representing Team Canada.

Raptors big man Chris Boucher is a third notable omission. According to Michael Grange of (Twitter link), Boucher is focused on rehabbing a knee sprain and wants to make sure he’s 100% healthy heading into 2021/22. He also has a somewhat uncertain contract situation — his $7MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, though I’d be shocked if he’s not retained.

Even without Murray, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Boucher, Canada Basketball is in position to run out a roster stacked with NBA talent and led by former NBA Coach of the Year Nick Nurse.

While the final roster will depend in part on which players are available, none of the 21 players on the preliminary are on teams expected to still be alive for the conference finals. However, a club like Powell’s Mavericks or Barrett’s Knicks could surprise.

Team Canada will compete against Greece, China, Uruguay, Turkey, and the Czech Republic in a qualifying tournament in Victoria, British Columbia between June 29 and July 4. If the club wins that six-team qualifier, it will be part of the 12-team field in Tokyo and would be a legit contender for a medal.

Ankle Sprain To Sideline Nickeil Alexander-Walker At Least Two Weeks

Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker underwent an MRI yesterday to address an ankle injury. New Orleans discovered that Alexander-Walker has a “moderate left high-ankle sprain,” per a team press release.

This continues a string of bad luck for the Pelicans’ back court, as the team announced in the same press release that fellow guard Josh Hart had a right thumb surgery today, and will miss at least three weeks in his own recovery. Rookie point guard Kira Lewis Jr. is also on the Pelicans’ injury list.

Sharp-shooting veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas was clearly added just in time on a 10-day deal last week.

Alexander-Walker had enjoyed a significant uptick in play during his sophomore NBA season. He was named to the league’s 2020/21 Rising Stars list ahead of the All-Star Game last month.

Selected with the No. 17 pick in the 2019 draft, the 22-year-old out of Virginia Tech holds averages of 10.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.0 APG and 1.0 SPG across 41 games this season (including 10 starts). Alexander-Walker is also connecting on a solid 34.8% of his 4.6 three-point attempts a night. He has seen his playing time increase from 12.6 MPG in his rookie year to 20.8 MPG for 2020/21 so far.

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

Southwest Notes: Bledsoe, Kleber, White, Samanic

After a report Tuesday that the Pelicans are getting trade calls about guards Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst adds another name to the list. Appearing on “The Jump” today (video link), Windhorst said Eric Bledsoe is also available and that New Orleans is initiating trade talks with other teams.

With a 5-10 record, the Pelicans have been the most disappointing team in the West. Bledsoe has played a role in that as his numbers across the board are down from last season in Milwaukee. Acquired from the Bucks in the Jrue Holiday deal, Bledsoe is averaging 12.8 points per game, his lowest scoring average in eight years.

According to Windhorst, New Orleans wants to clear away its veteran guards to create more playing time for Nickeil Alexander-Walker and rookie Kira Lewis, who was the 13th pick in last year’s draft. Coach Stan Van Gundy talked to Ball and Redick today about the situation, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic, and said the players realize that trade rumors are part of life in the NBA.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Maxi Kleber, one of five Mavericks players who were quarantined, has been cleared and has started individual workouts, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Rick Carlisle said Kleber won’t be available for Friday’s game against the Jazz, but may return this weekend. “His clock is ticking at a different rate because his episode was longer,” Carlisle said. “He certainly won’t play in either of these two games (at Utah). Saturday I suppose could be a possibility, but I don’t know.” (Twitter link)
  • Spurs guard Derrick White is close to returning from a fractured toe and could be back in the lineup this weekend, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). White, who has played just one game this season, had surgery on the toe in August and reinjured it on New Year’s Day.
  • The Spurs have sent second-year forward Luka Samanic to the G League bubble in Orlando, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Samanic has seen limited playing time in four games this season.

Southwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, Harden, Porzingis, Jackson

Continued improvement and consistency from Nickeil Alexander-Walker could make it more feasible for the Pelicans to move Lonzo Ball down the road, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Alexander-Walker, a first-round pick in 2019, erupted for a career-high 37 points against the Clippers on Wednesday.

“The big measure for young guys is not what happens when everything is rolling your way,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s what happens when you’re having a frustrating night.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets defeated the Spurs in their first game since the James Harden trade and rookie forward Jae’Sean Tate  said the team was determined to put up a unified front, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Houston also played without the most prominent player it acquired, Victor Oladipo, as well as injured guards John Wall and Eric Gordon. “There’s a lot of guys — on the team and coaching staff and the GM — everybody has so much to prove,” Tate said.
  • Kristaps Porzingis‘ season debut reinforced the feeling that he may be best suited at power forward, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes. Porzingis often played center last season when Dwight Powell injured his Achilles. The Mavericks are unbeaten this season since Willie Cauley-Stein became the starter at center. The Mavs are likely to keep Porzingis at power forward for the time being, Townsend adds.
  • Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. vows that he’ll return to action this season, as he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated. He suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee in August. “I’ll be back this [season]. Who knows when, but it won’t be too long,” he said.

Pelicans Exercise 2021/22 Options On Zion, Hayes, Alexander-Walker

The Pelicans have picked up their 2021/22 team options on the rookie scale contracts of Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a league source tells Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link).

All three players already had their salaries guaranteed for the coming season. Having these options exercised ensures that their salaries for 2021/22 – the third year of their respective rookie contracts – will also be locked in.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2021/22 Rookie Scale Team Options]

Williamson’s option salary for ’21/22 will be approximately $10.7MM, while Hayes will earn about $5.3MM and Alexander-Walker will make $3.3MM. A year from now, the Pelicans will face decisions on all three players’ 2022/23 options.

Williamson – 2019’s No. 1 overall pick and, improbably, the longest-tenured Pelican – appeared in just 24 games as a rookie, playing limited minutes after coming off knee surgery. However, he still put up outstanding numbers, including 22.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.1 APG in 27.8 minutes per contest. He’s set to enter this season without minute restrictions.

Hayes and Alexander-Walker played modest roles as rookies and aren’t considered franchise cornerstones on the same level that Williamson is, but the Pelicans will be counting on both youngsters to take a step or two forward in 2020/21.

Pelicans’ Nickeil Alexander-Walker Out Indefinitely

Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be sidelined indefinitely with a hairline fracture in his right wrist, the team announced in a press release.

He underwent an MRI after feeling discomfort in the wrist at Thursday’s practice, according to the release. Further evaluation will be conducted to determine the next steps in treatment.

Alexander-Walker has put together a solid rookie season after being taken with the 17th pick in the 2019 draft. He has appeared in 41 games and is averaging 5.1 PPG in about 12 minutes per night. He was selected to participate in this year’s Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend.