- Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is getting more of a chance to run the offense during Dennis Schröder‘s absence from the team, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman observes. While Schröder and Chris Paul have spent most of the time handling the point this season, Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be the team’s long-term point guard.
- Thunder big man Mike Muscala suffered a concussion during Monday’s loss to Denver and has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol, the club announced today in a press release. Muscala has played limited minutes (12.6 MPG) for Oklahoma City this season, so his absence won’t have a major impact on the team’s rotation.
- In and out of the Thunder‘s rotation over the course of the 2019/20 season, Hamidou Diallo has reclaimed a key role off the bench, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Diallo – who has a minimum-salary team option for 2020/21 – had nine points in Oklahoma City’s Saturday win over Utah, then was a +19 on Monday in a game the Thunder lost by eight points.
As expected, Thunder guard Dennis Schröder has left the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus in order to be with his wife for the birth of their second child, head coach Billy Donovan confirmed today, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“It happened this morning so he’s with his family at this point in time,” Donovan said. “I’ll have a chance to probably talk to him and find out a little bit more, if it’s not later today, tomorrow. But right now for at least this game, he’ll be out. We’ll probably be able to gather some more information once we get a chance to spend a little bit more time with his over the phone.”
Shortly after the Thunder arrived at the NBA’s campus last month, Schröder indicated that he anticipated leaving in early August for the birth of his child, so his departure doesn’t come as a surprise.
A Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Schröder has enjoyed the best season of his career in 2019/20, averaging 18.9 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.7 RPG with career-best shooting percentages of 46.9% from the floor and 37.9% from beyond the arc.
The NBA’s protocols for leaving and re-entering the Disney campus call for a quarantine period of four days when a player returns. That quarantine period can be extended all the way up to 10-14 days if the player doesn’t test negative for COVID-19 each day that he’s away (or for seven consecutive days leading up to his return, if he’s gone for more than a week). However, it seems likely that Schröder will make sure to get tested daily during his absence.
Even if Schröder’s absence is brief, he’s probably on track to miss at least the Thunder’s games against Denver (today), the Lakers (Wednesday), and the Grizzlies (Friday).
Losing the veteran guard for a handful of their seeding games will create a tougher path for the Thunder as they look to improve their place in the standings. At 41-24, Oklahoma City currently ranks sixth in the West, but is just a half-game behind Utah and Houston and only 1.5 games behind the third-seeded Nuggets.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have been voted the co-coaches of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
This award, introduced in 2017, isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award is expected to be announced at some point during the postseason this summer.
The Coaches Association’s version of the award – named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg – is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.
Budenholzer, who also won the NBCA’s award in 2019, has had even more success with the East-leading Bucks this season. His team has a 54-13 record and – before the season was suspended – had been on pace to surpass the 60 victories that last year’s Milwaukee squad racked up.
As for Donovan, he has exceeded expectations with a Thunder team that was viewed as a borderline playoff contender and a candidate for a full-fledged rebuild. Instead of returning to the lottery following the offseason departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City is 41-24, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A strong finish over the next couple weeks could result in a top-four record in the conference for the Thunder.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, widely viewed as the favorite to win the official Coach of the Year award in 2020, was one vote away from finishing in a three-way tie with Budenholzer and Donovan, per Wojnarowski.
Sources tell ESPN that Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Nate McMillan (Pacers), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Frank Vogel (Lakers) also received votes.
Backup Thunder center Nerlens Noel missed the squad’s final scrimmage ahead of the NBA season restart in Orlando after accidentally not taking his daily COVID-19 test, according to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. The Thunder would go on to win that scrimmage, 131-120, against the Trail Blazers. Any player who misses a daily coronavirus test is required to quarantine in his hotel for at least a day before rejoining his team.
Noel signed a new one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Thunder last summer. He has proved to be a useful rotation addition for the club, averaging 7.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.0 APG in 55 games. The Thunder will play their first game of the league’s restart on Saturday against the Jazz.
- All-NBA Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will play in the team’s first restart game on Friday against the Grizzlies, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. Lillard missed the team’s final two scrimmage games against the Raptors and Thunder with a sore left foot. “I was able to do everything [normally],” he said after a private 45-minute solo workout Wednesday. “I feel fine. I’m ready to go for tomorrow.”
Under the league’s concussion policy, Nader must pass through a series of steps to prove he is free of symptoms before being permitted to resume basketball activities. There is no set timetable for a player to complete the protocol. Oklahoma City has one more scrimmage remaining before starting its seeding games next Saturday against the Jazz.
Nader has appeared in 48 games this season, making five starts, and is averaging 6.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per night.
Thunder forward Andre Roberson hasn’t been a part of the team’s rotation since the first half of the 2017/18 season, having dealt with a series of knee issues that have prevented him from returning to the court. As Royce Young of ESPN details, Roberson finally appears to be close to making his comeback after more than two years of recovery and rehabilitation.
“(It has been) basically a big roller coaster of emotions,” Roberson said of his rehab process. “Just being so close, and then something else would happen. Setback after setback. I don’t know man, it was just tough. … (There were) definitely a lot of times I was ready to give up.”
Roberson, who last suited up on January 27, 2018, says he feels as if he’s “finally ready” to play, though the Thunder won’t raise expectations or put any pressure on the defensive specialist by penciling in for a major role right away. As Young points out, if Roberson plays at all during Oklahoma City’s August 1 restart opener, he’ll have gone 916 days between games.
Here’s more from around the Northwest:
- Although Thunder head coach Billy Donovan is on an expiring contract, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman expects the two sides to work out an agreement to keep Donovan in his current role beyond this season.
- Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has cleared his initial quarantine period at the NBA’s campus, a source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). Porter still needs to pass a cardiac screening to be cleared to practice, but the team is taking small steps toward getting its full roster available.
- The Trail Blazers – and head coach Terry Stotts – were happy with what they saw on Thursday from Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, who were playing for the first time in 16 months and nine months, respectively. As Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, the team still wants to experiment with frontcourt options in its next two inter-squad scrimmages before deciding on a starting five for the seeding games. “Right now, I would like to see Nurk and Hassan Whiteside out there together and we can make decisions after that,” Stotts said. “At this point, I’m just keeping an open mind about it.”
- Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Thunder general manager Sam Presti explained why he believes Dennis Schröder is worthy of winning Sixth Man of the Year. “I think he’s playing the best basketball of his career,” Presti said (via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). “He’s all about trying to do what’s right for the team right now, and he’s just an elite competitor. I’m happy that he’s playing so well, and I hope he does get recognized for it.” This season, the veteran guard is averaging 19 PPG while shooting 38.1% from three-point range.