Onyeka Okongwu

Southeast Notes: Satoransky, I. Thomas, Okongwu, Hawks

Tomas Satoransky is excited to rejoin the Wizards and have the opportunity to play with Kristaps Porzingis again, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “It feels like home and it’s always easier to go somewhere you like,” Satoransky said of D.C. and the Wizards.

As Hughes details, Satoransky has had a tough season to this point. The 30-year-old suffered a flexor muscle injury while playing with his native Czech Republic in the Olympics last summer, which limited his ability to train. He was traded to the Pelicans from the Bulls in the offseason, then was dealt to the Spurs ahead of the trade deadline last month. He reached a buyout agreement with the Spurs and then signed with the Wizards after clearing waivers.

Satoransky has appeared in 34 games (14.8 minutes) so far this season, averaging just 2.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on .306/.161/.774 shooting. He admits it’s been a challenging year. “It was the first time I really struggled like that in the NBA, but it happens sometimes. It’s a tough league and you have to be mentally resilient,” he said, per Hughes. Satoransky holds career averages of 7.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on .468/.356/.819 shooting in 367 games (22.4 minutes), so 2021/22 is an outlier statistically.

Satoransky was Porzingis’ teammate with Spanish club Casajol from 2012-14 and he’s looking forward to being on the court with him again, Hughes relays. “I was also excited that Kristaps is on the team because Kristaps is my good friend from the past. I played with him for three years, 10-11 years ago. Imagine that, it’s really crazy. I always wished that I could play with him again. This chance is pretty awesome to have,” Satoransky said.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Isaiah Thomas, who inked a 10-day deal with the Hornets Wednesday, says he’ll bring a positive attitude to his new team, regardless of how much he actually plays, according to Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. “I have no expectations,” Thomas said. “My expectation is just to make a positive impact on the organization whether I play or I don’t. I’ve been able to make positive impacts on organizations if I’m in the game or if I’m not. So it really doesn’t matter if I play or not. I’m here to be a positive influence on those guys and hopefully turn this ship around a little bit. But if my name is called, I’ve been prepared for these moments. So I’m more than prepared and more than ready to take advantage.” Thomas put up 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in 14 minutes in Charlotte’s 119-98 victory over Cleveland Wednesday.
  • Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu has entered the league’s concussion protocol and is out for Thursday’s game against Chicago, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. John Collins is also out as he continues to be bothered by a right foot straight, while Trae Young is questionable with a sprained ankle, Spencer relays (Twitter link). It’ll be Collins’ seventh straight missed game.
  • Time is running out to save the Hawks’ frustratingly inconsistent season, says Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “I don’t know why it’s going up and down,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said after Atlanta blew a 15-point lead to the Celtics and lost 107-98. “Like why is it going from the greatest game we just had against Toronto (Saturday night) to the worst game maybe in the season? I don’t know. I’m experiencing this for the first time of my career. I don’t know.” After finishing last season 41-31 and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks are just 29-32 to this point, 10th in the East. They hold a one-game lead over Washington for the final spot in the play-in tournament.

Southeast Notes: Okongwu, Anthony, Heat

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu believes he deserves to be part of this year’s Rising Stars Game over All-Star Weekend, he told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. On the season, he’s averaged 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 23.3 minutes per game, though he’s only played in 16 contests to date.

“I think I should, honestly,” Okongwu said. “Everybody can see what I do out there on the court. I think my play really speaks for itself, especially defensively with what I’ve been able to do, guarding on the ball and helping. Offensively, I’ve got my confidence back. I’ve doubled my points scoring to almost 10.

“At the end of the day, we’re on a six-game winning streak playing good basketball, and I’m part of the mix, which is always a blessing. I’m thankful to be able to be on the Hawks, and we’re playing good basketball. I think, all things considered, I should get a Rising Stars nod.”

Okongwu also discussed other topics in the interview, including who he compares himself to as a player and what the team’s expectations are. Atlanta selected the 21-year-old with the No. 6 pick in 2020.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic guard Cole Anthony was fined $25K for directing profane and derogatory remarks toward a game official, the NBA announced this week (Twitter link). Anthony made his comments after the team’s 111-102 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday. He finished with 19 points, 11 assists and three steals in the contest, shooting 5-of-11 (45%).
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat need more versatile players in the closing moments of a game. Miami has finished with either Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson in most of its close games, adding offense but hurting its defense. Once Victor Oladipo returns, head coach Erik Spoelstra will have another defensive option to insert when necessary.

COVID-19 Updates: Doncic, SGA, Robinson, Hawks, Nuggets, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Doncic, who hasn’t played since December 10, missed a combined 10 games due to a left ankle injury and his time in the protocols. He’s expected to meet his teammates in Oklahoma City and may return to the court on Sunday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber may also be able to exit the protocols in time for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas, which has five other players still in protocols, managed to go 5-5 without Doncic and is holding onto eighth place in the Western Conference.

Here are more updates on players entering and exiting the protocols:

COVID-19 Updates: Hawks, Blazers, Celtics, Bucks, Nets

Wesley Iwundu, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Hawks on Thursday, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Iwundu played 23 minutes in the Hawks’ 98-96 victory over the Sixers Thursday night, scoring two points and grabbing five rebounds. ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets that the Hawks will need to sign another replacement player to replace Iwundu — himself a replacement player.

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu, who made his season debut last week, has entered the protocols as well, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. In three games this season (22.3 MPG), Okongwu is averaging 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. The Hawks now have nine players in the protocols.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates:

  • Backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and two-way rookie Trendon Watford have entered the protocols for the Trail Blazers and the rest of the team will now be re-tested, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). DSJ and Watford are the only players currently in the protocols for the Blazers.
  • The Celtics have four new players entering the protocols: C.J. Miles, Justin Jackson, Aaron Nesmith, and Bruno Fernando, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. However, Al Horford, Juan Hernangomez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas, who’ve all been in the protocols, are listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, so they could be exiting the protocols soon. Until those four are cleared, the Celtics will have 12 players in the COVID-19 protocols — the largest outbreak in the NBA.
  • In addition to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis has exited the protocols for the Bucks, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. Like Horford and the other Celtics, Donte DiVincenzo, who’s also been in the protocols, is listed as questionable to make his season debut Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, Bruce Brown and James Johnson have exited the protocols for the Nets, but seven others, including star Kevin Durant, remain in the protocols for their game Saturday against the Lakers, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
  • Warriors rookie Moses Moody has entered the protocols, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Golden State now has four players in the protocols.

Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu Set For Season Debut

Hawks head coach Nate McMillan says second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu will make his season debut Friday night, according to Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (all Twitter links).

Okongwu will be on a minutes restriction as he continues to build his conditioning, Spencer relays. The young center says he feels sound physically.

I’m good. Coach Mac (McMillan) and the other coaches have been pushing me out here, trying to get me in the best shape, best cardio, so when my name is called, I’ll be ready,” Okongwu said.

Okongwu, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2020 draft, has been recovering from surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder. He was originally projected to miss six months, but will make his debut just shy of five, so clearly the rehabilitation process has gone well for the 21-year-old. He’s been playing 5-on-5 practices with the College Park Skyhawks (Atlanta’s G League affiliate) the past couple weeks, and in his lone contest with the Skyhawks, Okongwu put up 10 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks in just 24 minutes.

Okongwu was a bench regular for the Hawks last season, averaging 4.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG while shooting 64.4% from the field in 50 games (12 MPG). He also played in every playoff game during Atlanta’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

It’s a welcome return for the 14-14 Hawks, who have missed Okongwu’s energy, athleticism, defense, and above-the-rim finishing off the bench this season. He held a plus-16 net rating as a rookie, per Basketball-Reference, and showed significant growth towards the end of last season. The Hawks face the Nuggets at 6:30 PM CT.

Southeast Notes: Reddish, Bogdanovic, Okongwu, Hornets, Sabonis, Martin

Hawks forward Cam Reddish, who is recovering from a wrist injury, went through a full practice on Thursday, according to coach Nate McMillan. Reddish did some shooting and participated in drills at 75% speed. He’s listed as probable to play on Friday.

Bogdan Bogdanovic still needs more time to return from his ankle injury, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports in a series of tweets. “Bogi’s not doing anything other than shooting. He looks better,” McMillan said. “He’s up on his feet and he’s moving around.”

Second-year big man Onyeka Okongwu is continuing his rehab assignment from shoulder surgery. He’s with the G League College Park Skyhawks and is expected to play on Thursday.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • There’s been no change regarding the Hornets‘ COVID-19 issues. LaMelo Ball, Jalen McDaniels, Mason Plumlee, Terry Rozier and Ish Smith are all listed as out for Friday’s game against Sacramento due to the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets. Charlotte’s depleted roster has managed to beat Atlanta and lose two close games to Philadelphia since those players were sidelined over the weekend.
  • With a recent report claiming that the Pacers may shake up their roster, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines whether Domantas Sabonis should be a trade target for the Wizards. Hughes notes that Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are expected to return soon and the front office would like to see how they fit with their revamped roster. Hughes adds that the club already has the look of a playoff team and the addition of Sabonis may not move the needle all that much.
  • Caleb Martin may eventually have his two-way contract converted to a standard deal by the Heat but there are luxury tax concerns, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Martin has been active for 24 of the Heat’s 26 games and can only be active for 50 games under two-way rules. If he remained on the active roster for every game, he’d be able to play until nearly the end of January. But the Heat would have to wait a couple of weeks after that to convert his contract in order to avoid surpassing the tax threshold.

Southeast Notes: Suggs, Hawks, Okongwu, Miles Bridges, LaMelo

2021 fifth overall pick Jalen Suggs suffered a fractured right thumb on Monday for the Magic, but surgery won’t be necessary to repair the injury, according to Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com.

Savage writes that Suggs will be evaluated every two weeks to assess how much the bone has healed, and the healing process will determine when he returns to the court.

Through 21 contests (27.8 MPG), Suggs is averaging 12.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.6 APG and 1.1 SPG. His counting stats are solid, but like many rookies, he’s struggled with efficiency in the early going, committing 3.2 turnovers per game with a poor shooting line of .339/.255/.763.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Hawks assistant coach Jamelle McMillan is in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols and head coach Nate McMillan will be isolating until he has tested negative multiple times, the team announced (Twitter link). In a follow-up tweet, the team says that assistant coach Chris Jent will serve as head coach Dec. 1 against the Pacers. Jent is a veteran assistant and has been with the Hawks since 2017.
  • Second-year Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu is starting to ramp up activity while recovering from shoulder surgery. We noted last week he played 3-on-3, and now coach Nate McMillan says he’s going to start practicing 5-on-5 with the College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G League affiliate, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). He’s expected to play in a G League game if the practices go well.
  • LaMelo Ball is playing a major role in Miles Bridges‘ breakout season with the Hornets, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer writes. Tjarks takes an in-depth look at the connection between the two players, noting that Bridges is an All-Star candidate this season with two-way impact. Tjarks says the Hornets may regret not giving Bridges a rookie scale extension at a discounted rate when they had the chance, stating that Bridges could earn a max contract next summer if he keeps playing at a high level.

Injury Notes: Okongwu, Embiid, Raptors, Harris, B. Brown

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu played some 3-on-3 this week and “came out OK,” head coach Nate McMillan said on Tuesday (Twitter link via Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). McMillan added that the Hawks will continue to be cautious with Okongwu and that there’s no set timeline for his return from shoulder surgery. Atlanta initially estimated a recovery period of about six months when Okongwu went under the knife in July.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Tuesday that the Sixers are hopeful Joel Embiid will be able to return as soon as Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) reiterated today that there’s growing optimism about Embiid’s ability to play on Saturday. The star center hasn’t suited up since November 6 due to a case of COVID-19.
  • For the first time this season, the Raptors may have a fully healthy roster later this week, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith writes, Yuta Watanabe (calf) and OG Anunoby (hip) are both close to returning, while Khem Birch (knee) and Precious Achiuwa (shoulder) are day-to-day. All four players are currently listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. Memphis.
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash doesn’t expect Joe Harris (ankle) to be back for Saturday’s game vs. Phoenix, but is optimistic Bruce Brown (hamstring) will be available by that point, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Nash said Brown wanted to play tonight, but the team is opting to give him a little more recovery time.

Southeast Notes: Ball, Hachimura, Okongwu, Adebayo

Hornets coach James Borrego meets individually with LaMelo Ball at least twice a week to go over details that will aid the point guard’s development, Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer writes. They are especially focused on reducing turnovers and fouls.

“It’s really about decision-making,” Borrego said. “That’s really it. ‘What are you seeing here? What are your reads here? What are you thinking on this play offensively, defensively?’ Some of it is accountability, some of it is simply, ‘You are in the right position, you are not in the right position.’ I show him positives, I show him areas of growth. It’s not all areas of concern for me.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura is expected to begin training with the Capital City Go-Go in the G League next week, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. Hachimura hasn’t played this season due to personal reasons and the Wizards are hopeful he’ll soon return to their rotation. The focus right now is mainly about getting his conditioning up to speed.
  • Hawks second-year forward Onyeka Okongwu has ramped up his activity as he seeks to return from shoulder surgery, he told Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The 2020 lottery pick is hopeful he can get back in action sometime next month. “I feel stronger. Legs feel stronger, I’m getting my upper-body muscles back, and everything’s going well right now,” he said. “You could say that I’m definitely on track; my goal is still to come back in December, but I’m not going to rush or anything.”
  • Heat center Bam Adebayo admits the team was worn out by the time the playoffs came around last season, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Miami was swept by the Bucks in the opening round. “We are more solution-based and trying to figure out how to get it done rather than, ‘Here is our excuses to why we can’t get it done,’” Adebayo said. “But after the season, looking back at it, you was like, ‘Nah, we were broken.’”

Hawks Pick Up 2022/23 Options On Hunter, Reddish, Okongwu

The Hawks have exercised the fourth-year team options on the rookie scale contracts for De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, along with the third-year option for Onyeka Okongwu, the team announced today in a press release.

All three players were already under contract for the coming season. Picking up their options ensures they’re locked up for 2022/23 too. Their cap hits for that season will be $9,835,881 (Hunter), $5,954,454 (Reddish), and Okongwu ($6,395,160).

Hunter, Reddish, and Okongwu have all dealt with injuries this year, but have shown promise when healthy. Hunter, in particular, was off to a strong start last season, averaging 17.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG on .517/.375/.877 shooting with strong defense in his first 17 games (33.3 MPG) before sustaining a knee injury in his 18th game.

With their options exercised, Hunter and Reddish are now on track to become extension-eligible during the 2022 offseason and would be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023 if they don’t sign new deals before then. The Hawks will have to decide on Okongwu’s 2023/24 option next fall.

Our tracker of rookie scale option decisions for 2022/23 can be found right here.