Thunder Rumors

Thunder’s Josh Hall Out Due To COVID-19 Protocols

Thunder rookie small forward Josh Hall will miss at least tomorrow’s tilt against the Clippers due to the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (Twitter link).

Hall was inked to a two-way contract by the Thunder in December after going undrafted straight out of high school via Moravian Prep in Hickory, North Carolina. The 6’9″ wing has yet to crack the regular rotation, averaging 7.8 MPG in five games for the Thunder.

Details on the exact nature of Hall’s absence have yet to emerge. It is possible the 20-year-old is being withheld from game action and isolating as a precautionary measure after returning a positive or inconclusive test result for the novel coronavirus.

Alternately, Hall may also be absent due to the league’s contact tracing protocols. If it’s determined he was a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, he would need to continue to test negative for seven days following exposure.

Horford, Jerome Stay Behind During Trip

  • Al Horford and Ty Jerome did not travel with the Thunder at the start of their road trip this week, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Horford’s wife just gave birth to their fourth child and it’s uncertain if Horford will rejoin the team during the trip. Jerome, who was acquired from Phoenix as a throw-in to the Chris Paul deal, has yet to make his Oklahoma City debut. He’s rehabbing from a left ankle sprain.
  • The Thunder’s second-round pick, Vit Krejci, will be stashed on the roster of their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, Mussatto tweets. Krejci is rehabbing from an ACL injury that he suffered in September.

Sixers-Thunder Sunday Game Postponed

The SixersThunder game scheduled for Sunday night has been postponed due to ongoing contract tracing, the 14th postponement of the young season, the NBA announced in a press release.

Philadelphia doesn’t have the league-required eight players available to proceed, the league said. The team was seen warming up prior to the decision.

The cause is connected to the Sixers’ game against the Grizzlies on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer adds (via Twitter) that the 76ers have no new positive cases to report at this time.

Seth Curry (health and safety protocols), Vincent Poirier (health and safety protocols), Mike Scott (knee) and Joel Embiid (knee) were the only players listed as out on the original injury report. The game was scheduled to commence at 7:00 pm ET on NBA TV.

Philadelphia has upcoming games scheduled against the Celtics on both Wednesday and Friday. The Sixers currently own the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 9-5.

COVID-19 Notes: Hill, Conference Calls, Vaccine, More

We can count Thunder guard George Hill among those who aren’t fans of the new, more restrictive coronavirus protocols that were agreed upon by the NBA and the NBPA this week. Addressing reporters on Tuesday night, Hill questioned the logic behind some of the rule changes, including the limits placed on postgame interactions between players, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes.

“I just don’t understand some of the rules as far as we can sweat 48 minutes with the guy next to us and the team next to us, but we can’t talk to him after the game,” Hill said. “It makes no sense.”

Hill also openly wondered if it makes sense to continue playing the season if such restrictive measures are necessary — and if even those measures can’t guarantee that there won’t be an outbreak of the virus.

“I’m a grown man, so I’m gonna do what I wanna do,” Hill said. “If I wanna go see my family, I’m gonna go see my family. They can’t tell me I have to stay in the room 24/7. If it’s that serious, then maybe we shouldn’t be playing. It’s life. No one’s gonna be able to just cancel their whole life for this game.”

Here’s more on the COVID-19 situation:

  • During the NBA’s meetings with general managers and team owners this week, there was no discussion of suspending the season due to the recent increasing number of positive coronavirus tests, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic. As Marc Stein of The New York Times explains, one reason the NBA wants to avoid a pause is that officials think even more players would contract the virus without the league’s health and safety protocols in place.
  • While the NBA has insisted it won’t cut the line for vaccines for its players and staffers, a new idea emerged on Tuesday’s call with team presidents. According to Amick, it was suggested that players could volunteer at public distribution centers and receive the vaccine in that setting while encouraging the public to follow suit. Amick expects the idea to be explored further.
  • The NBA has tweaked its hardship provision to allow teams to apply to replace players who are hit hard by COVID-19 absences in addition to injuries, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. However, there are logistical challenges to bringing in new players, since they require a quarantine period before they’re cleared, so it remains to be seen how many teams will be able to actually take advantage of the rule tweak.

2020/21 NBA G League Draft Results

The NBA G League held its draft for the 2020/21 season on Monday afternoon.

In a typical year, the G League draft lasts four rounds and teams are only required to make two selections. However, this year’s draft was just three rounds and teams weren’t required to make any picks.

Because only 17 of 28 NBA G League affiliates (plus the G League Ignite) are participating in the revamped season at Walt Disney World in Florida, and because teams aren’t permitted to bring extra players to training camp for health and safety reasons, roster spots will be at a premium in the NBAGL this season, and the draft reflected that. Only 25 players were selected.

With the first overall pick, the Greensboro Swarm – the Hornets‘ affiliate – nabbed former Wizard Admiral Schofield. The 42nd overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Schofield averaged 3.0 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 33 games (11.2 MPG) as a rookie before being traded to the Thunder during the offseason. Oklahoma City waived him last month.

With the second overall pick, which they acquired in a trade earlier in the day, the Memphis Hustle selected former Baylor standout Freddie Gillespie, who had been in camp with the Mavericks. Gillespie recently spoke to JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors about his desire to make it to the NBA and his plans to begin his professional career in the G League. He’s now in position to suit up for the Grizzlies‘ affiliate.

Here are the full 2020/21 G League draft results:

Round One:

  1. Greensboro Swarm (Hornets): Admiral Schofield (Tennessee)
  2. Memphis Hustle (Grizzlies): Freddie Gillespie (Baylor)
  3. Canton Charge (Cavaliers): Antonio Blakeney (LSU)
  4. Iowa Wolves (Timberwolves): Allonzo Trier (Arizona)
  5. Lakeland Magic (Magic):  Tahjere McCall (Tennessee State)
  6. Canton Charge: Anthony Lamb (Vermont)
  7. Oklahoma City Blue (Thunder): Zavier Simpson (Michigan)
  8. Lakeland Magic: DJ Hogg (Texas A&M)
  9. Westchester Knicks (Knicks): Justin Patton (Creighton)
  10. Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Rockets): Armoni Brooks (Houston)
  11. Raptors 905 (Raptors): Kevon Harris (Stephen F. Austin)
  12. Rio Grande Valley Vipers: Jarron Cumberland (Cincinnati)
  13. Oklahoma City Blue: Vince Edwards (Purdue)
  14. Austin Spurs (Spurs): Jonathan Kasibabu (Fairfield)
  15. Raptors 905: Gary Payton II (Oregon State)
  16. Memphis Hustle: Anthony Cowan Jr. (Maryland)
  17. Iowa Wolves: Dakarai Tucker (Utah)
  18. Salt Lake City Stars (Jazz): No pick
  19. N/A

Round Two:

  1. Delaware Blue Coats (Sixers): Jemerrio Jones (New Mexico State)
  2. Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Pacers): Oshae Brissett (Syracuse)
  3. Westchester Knicks: No pick
  4. Iowa Wolves: No pick
  5. Long Island Nets (Nets): No pick
  6. Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario (Clippers): No pick
  7. Fort Wayne Mad Ants: Quincy McKnight (Seton Hall)
  8. Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario (Clippers): No pick
  9. Santa Cruz Warriors (Warriors): Selom Mawugbe (Azusa Pacific)
  10. Raptors 905: No pick
  11. Memphis Hustle: No pick
  12. Austin Spurs: Anthony Mathis (Oregon)
  13. Erie BayHawks (Pelicans): No pick
  14. Greensboro Swarm: No pick
  15. Austin Spurs: Kaleb Johnson (Georgetown)
  16. Santa Cruz Warriors: No pick
  17. Memphis Hustle: No pick
  18. Oklahoma City Blue: Rob Edwards (Arizona State)
  19. Salt Lake City Stars: No pick

Round Three:

  1. Greensboro Swarm: No pick
  2. Erie BayHawks: No pick
  3. Westchester Knicks: No pick
  4. Delaware Blue Coats: Braxton Key (Virginia)
  5. No picks from 43-57

The teams that didn’t make any picks will fill their rosters with affiliate players and returning rights players, meaning they didn’t need to draft anyone and/or didn’t have the open spots to do so.

As Jonathan Givony of ESPN and Blake Murphy of The Athletic noted (via Twitter), NBAGL teams overwhelmingly opted for youth, passing on most of the notable veteran NBA players in the draft pool. That group included Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Lance Stephenson, Emeka Okafor, and Shabazz Muhammad, among others.

Former Nets first-rounder Dzanan Musa removed his name from the draft pool before the event began, per Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

George Hill Discusses Jacob Blake Decision, Other Topics

  • Marc Spears of The Undefeated examined the Jacob Blake decision and more with Thunder guard George Hill, who offered insight about topics on and off the court. “I can’t speak for everybody. I can only speak for myself. I just think with the way the world is going, I just think we all need to come together,” Hill said as part of a larger quote addressing where players should go with the social justice movement this season. “We’re 450 [players] and when 450 stand strong, we’re more powerful than everyone thinks. We’re way more powerful than they think we are. I learned a lot from LeBron [James] and how he migrated and moved on and off the floor. He is a huge inspiration with how he uses his leverage to open doors and how powerful he is. That is just one guy. Four hundred and fifty can be really strong if we just come together.

Northwest Notes: Diallo, Ingles, Vanderbilt, Towns

Hamidou Diallo is best known as the winner of the 2019 Slam Dunk Contest, but he has become the Thunder‘s most productive bench player in his third NBA season, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Diallo is the leading scorer among Oklahoma City’s reserves at 10.5 PPG, including a 23-point outburst in Friday’s win at New York.

“He’s had a lot of ups and downs, he’s had injuries, he’s had a lot of nights where he’s probably staring at the ceiling, and it’s just a reminder that development’s not linear,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “He’s somebody that’s weathered storms. To his credit he’s been professional and he’s just stayed consistent. He has a night like tonight because of the cumulative effect of all those experiences and the way that he’s handled them.”

Going to Madison Square Garden is a homecoming for Diallo, who hails from Queens, but he said it’s a different experience with no fans in the stands and no ability to see the city because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Now we’re quarantined,” he said, “and we just pretty much stay in the hotel and stay out the way.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz forward Joe Ingles missed Friday’s game in Milwaukee because of right Achilles soreness, ending a streak that began in December of 2015, according to a story on the team’s website. Ingles had played in 384 straight regular season games and 418 total, counting the playoffs. “It makes you pause for a second and reflect on what a streak of consecutive games like that means and what it says about Joe, his toughness, his commitment and the type of teammate he is,” coach Quin Snyder said.
  • Foul trouble allowed Timberwolves power forward Jarred Vanderbilt to play extended minutes Tuesday, and he responded with with 11 points, five rebounds, two blocks and three steals, notes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Vanderbilt has been waiting for a chance since Minnesota acquired him at last year’s trade deadline. “I feel like you’re always going to get an opportunity. No matter how it comes … so my mindset was to just stay ready, stay locked in and continue to stay positive,” he said. “Especially in this league, once you go down that path of being negative, it’s hard to turn it around and get back on the right track.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns returned to the Timberwolves‘ lineup tonight for the first time since dislocating his left wrist two weeks ago, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Towns tested the wrist in warm-ups before a final decision was made (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Russell, Jerome, Hartenstein, Pokuševski

With Timberwolves star center Karl-Anthony Towns still out of commission due to a dislocated wrist, starting guard D’Angelo Russell has struggled as the new focus of the club’s offense, writes The Athletic’s Jon Krawcyznski. The Wolves have lost three straight games in which they have been down by at least 30 points.

Russell has recently been moved by Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders to the shooting guard position to play in tandem with distributor Ricky Rubio at the point. “It can’t be different every night. It’s going to be something we’re running with and we’re sticking with and we build from it,” Russell said.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Northwest Division:

  • Second-year Thunder guard Ty Jerome continues to recover from an ankle injury he incurred in training camp this season, Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman tweets“I think [it happened] in the first practice,” head coach Mark Daigneault. said. “He’s back in OKC on a return-to-play, getting his work in.”
  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post details how the Nuggets signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year, veteran’s minimum deal in free agency this offseason. Hartenstein discusses his frustration with a lack of consistent chances on his prior squad in Houston. “With the Rockets, every time they gave me an opportunity I performed,” Hartenstein said.
  • Rookie Thunder power forward Aleksej Pokuševski has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a concussion in a team practice today, according to a team press release. He has appeared in all five of the Thunder’s outings so far, and is averaging 16.0 MPG.

Roby Proves Mettle In First Start, Dort Flashing Defensive Potential

During a 118-107 loss to the Magic on Tuesday, Thunder power forward Isaiah Roby demonstrated why Oklahoma City kept him on their regular season roster despite having a scoreless rookie year, according to James Jackson of The Oklahoman. Roby scored 19 points and pulled down seven rebounds in his first NBA start.

“I was really happy for him tonight, he played a phenomenal game,” center Mike Muscala said of Roby’s performance for the Thunder. “I thought he played great defense too and rebounded well. … After not playing in the first two games and then coming out and starting against [Magic center Nikola Vučević], I thought he did a really good job.”

  • Upstart second-year Thunder wing Luguentz Dort could nab an All-Defensive team inclusion this season despite being on a rebuilding squad, according to Nick Crain of Forbes. Veteran teammate George Hill thinks Dort is well on his way to carving out a niche on that end of the ball. “He’s going to be one of the best defenders in this league,” Hill said.

Thunder Exercise Options On Gilgeous-Alexander, Bazley, Jerome

The Thunder have exercised the fourth-year contract option on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($5.5MM), plus the third-year options on Darius Bazley ($2.5MM) and Ty Jerome ($2.4MM), the team announced in a press release. All options are for the 2021/22 season.

Gilgeous-Alexander, widely considered to be the club’s best player, averaged 19.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this past season. He also shot an impressive 47% from the floor and 35% from downtown, doing so at just 21 years of age.

Bazley, a 20-year-old forward, was acquired by the team in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was selected No. 23 overall in the event, holding per-game averages of 5.6 points, four rebounds and 18.5 minutes last season.

As for Jerome, he was taken with the very next pick in 2019, starting his career in Philadelphia. Oklahoma City acquired the 23-year-old and others as part of the Chris Paul trade with Phoenix last month.

After surprising onlookers during the 2019/20 season, the Thunder have accelerated their rebuild by acquiring several draft assets and young players. The team is well-positioned to succeed in the future and will have Gilgeous-Alexander, Bazley and Jerome all under contract next season.